More than 500 people attended the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) annual conference in Montreal from Nov. 6 to 8, 2017, but president John McKenna said numbers would have been even higher were it not for the current pilot shortage.
“We have members who are not here because of that–they have to stay home and fly,” McKenna told Skies at the show.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to encourage young people to train to become pilots, especially with a lack of flight instructors which causes flight schools to operate below capacity.
ATAC wants to educate Canadian youth about the rewards of an aviation career. One of the groups it will target is the Royal Canadian Air Cadets.
He said that as recently as a year ago, many of Canada’s larger carriers did not recognize there was a pilot shortage, but in the last few months it’s become increasingly evident that the industry has a problem.
“We have many companies who are parking planes. Some have lost 18 of their 36 experienced pilots in the last six months. How do you compensate for that? It’s incredibly difficult. In 2017, we started to really address this as an issue.”
At its annual spring meeting in May, ATAC made a discussion on pilot recruitment a priority. At that event, speaker Mike Doiron cited several studies showing a Canadian pilot shortage is now “very real.”
A working group was convened, meeting twice over the summer to discuss the topic and chart a path forward for the association. Members of that group outlined their progress to a room full of industry representatives on Nov. 8 in Montreal.
Panel member Bob Connors, who is general manager at Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, said ATAC is taking the lead on the issue, with input from the Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace (CCAA), the College of Professional Pilots of Canada, and operators such as Sunwing, WestJet, Air Georgian, Jazz and Porter Airlines, among many others.
The group conducted a survey of ATAC’s flight school and carrier members to quantify flight training capacity in Canada. Of the 20 flight training units that have responded to date, all said they are not training at full capacity, mainly due to a lack of flight instructors.
Lynne McMullen, director of business development at the Seneca College School of Aviation, told the audience that although many schools surveyed are able to train Class IV instructors, roughly 50 per cent of them still require five or more instructors to reach capacity.
“There is a need to encourage people to consider flight instruction as a viable career option,” she said, adding that good instructors could move on to become training pilots with larger carriers.
To address the need for funding a comprehensive industry response to the pilot shortage, Robert Donald, CCAA executive director, said a pilot component was added to a proposal that his agency submitted to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), the government agency responsible for employment, skills training and the federal labour market.
The ATAC working group further studied the availability of information and financial assistance for student pilots across Canada, with Air Georgian’s Gabriella Marsala outlining the need to create a “one-stop shop” where students, parents, educators and other interested parties can find out how pilots are training and where funding can be found.
“We need to come together as a community to create this one-stop shop,” she said. “How can we create it? And one of the biggest questions is, ‘Who is going to do it?’ ”
ATAC plans to inform young people about careers in aviation with increased brand awareness through its FlyCanada web page. Mike Reyno Photo
Several operators, including Sunwing Airlines, now offer programs that fast track young pilots from the classroom to the cockpit. Mike Reyno Photo
Among the other issues discussed at the session was what McKenna referred to as the “elephant in the room”–the fact that after spending close to $100,000 on training, new pilots can expect to start off on the low end of the pay scale.
“Clearly, wages are a problem,” he said. “Labour is the biggest cost. The margins are low in this business. When you have a low margin, an increase in the price of gas, for example, can be a big problem.”
However, it was also acknowledged that in the current employment climate, pilots will climb the career ladder quickly, with compensation increasing accordingly.
Moving forward, Bob Connors said the group aims to inform young people about aviation careers, will work to increase brand awareness through ATAC’s FlyCanada web page, and hopes to create an online site under the ATAC banner that will become a one-stop resource shop for prospective pilots.
Outreach targets include youth (especially the Air Cadets), educators, parents, government, media and the general public, and related institutions and organizations.
“Leverage is the underlying theme here,” said Connors, who invited all industry members to collaborate for the cause.
While the pilot shortage is a key concern for ATAC, association president John McKenna said the other big issue at the moment is flight crew fatigue and the new set of “prescriptive” flight and duty time regulations that is expected to see publication in Canada Gazette II by early spring.
Along with other aviation associations, ATAC has voiced strong opposition to the new regulations.
“No one is arguing fatigue needs to be managed,” said McKenna. “We’re not asking him [Transport Minister Marc Garneau] not to do this. We’re asking him to take a breather; take an extra year and do it right.”
He said that after the regulations are enacted, the industry will require an average of 25 per cent more pilots to provide the same level of service.
“Pilots don’t seem to realize they’ll work fewer hours, but more days,” said McKenna. “And it will threaten the livelihood of some companies. If suddenly your labour costs increase by [an average of] 25 per cent, some of the operators won’t be able to operate.
“Some routes that are not profitable will be dropped. If they have to double crew them, or have the crew stay overnight, some of these routes may be jeopardized. The cost of any airline ticket in Canada will go up. Finally, it’s going to put more pressure on the pilot shortage.”
ATAC is also focusing on a number of other issues, including the level of service being provided by Transport Canada. “We’ve had some marginal improvements over the past year, but in other areas there has been no change. It is still taking months for manual approvals or to simply add a new aircraft to an operating certificate.”
The uncertain spectre of airport privatization is also on the association radar. “Selling off airports for a one-time cash grab would be a monumental mistake,” said McKenna. “This has not proved to be a good experience anywhere in the world. It would be a detriment to our industry.”
During the past year, ATAC has also provided feedback on proposed restructuring options for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which is responsible for screening passengers and baggage at the country’s airports.
There will be no shortage of issues demanding the attention of incoming ATAC chair, Steve Hankirk, who is president of Canadian North. But on the bright side, McKenna said the pressing situations facing the industry today are translating into an increase in association membership.
“In the last year, we’ve had several operators come to the table–expecting something in return, of course,” he said. “They’re here because they get something out of it. Right now, they need our help on these things. People want someone to speak out on their behalf.”
It was foggy and unseasonably warm on Feb. 23 as a Sunwing Boeing 737-800 landed at the Region of Waterloo International Airport and taxied up to the terminal.
Inside the building, a large group of people was eagerly anticipating the plane’s arrival. On hand were representatives from the University of Waterloo (UW), Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC), airport staff and members of the media–all there to celebrate four brand new Sunwing first officers who are among the first direct-entry cadets the leisure airline has ever hired.
As First Officer Chelsea Anne Edwards descended the airstairs to the wet tarmac, she was joined by three of her fellow graduates from the four-year aviation program offered by the UW and WWFC. Founded in 2007, the program–which leads to an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies in Geography and Aviation or to an Honours Bachelor of Science in Science and Aviation–has produced six graduating classes whose members are now flying around the world.
It’s safe to say, however, that the class of 2016 represents a major milestone for the program. It’s the first time its graduates have been offered direct-entry co-pilot positions with Sunwing Airlines. Edwards–together with Cameron Fuchs, Spencer Leckie and Siobhan O’Hanlon, all aged 23–found themselves going from graduation to the right seat of a 737 in just one year.
Two of the new first officers, Edwards and Fuchs, told Skies that the transition from WWFC aircraft to the right seat of a Boeing 737 was akin to drinking from the proverbial fire hose.
“It was busy, but we were well prepared from the Flight Centre and the training at Sunwing is first class. It all went well, but there were certainly challenges,” said Fuchs.
Edwards agreed. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “Still, when I get in the plane, I just can’t believe it. I never thought this would happen, never! I thought I’d be working in Yellowknife. It’s unreal. I love working here.”
To quote Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changing. No longer do aviation program grads face years of flight instructing or toiling in the Canadian bush before an airline will even consider them for a first officer position. In fact, Sunwing took on the four UW/WWFC graduates–plus two more from Seneca College–with most of them in the neighbourhood of 250 hours total flight time.
At the event on Feb. 23, the airline confirmed the program’s success and announced its plans to take on a new crop of cadets from both post-secondary programs beginning in July 2017.
“Attracting high calibre graduates to join our flight team is essential to our growth and success as an airline,” said Capt John Hudson, Sunwing’s manager of standards. “We were extremely pleased with the performance of the cadets that graduated from the program this summer, and hired four of them as first officers upon completion of their studies. We expect to hire similar numbers of graduates next year.”
Partnerships between academia and industry are becoming increasingly common in the Canadian flight training landscape.
An early model dates back to 2007, when Jazz Aviation debuted its Jazz Award program in collaboration with select aviation colleges and universities. Today, it has been rebranded as the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program (Jazz APP) and expanded to include eight schools and three industry partners from across the country.
Meanwhile, the Jazz Cadet program continues with Seneca College. It now includes a new instructor pathway program, which will give past Seneca grads–who subsequently took instructing jobs with the college–the chance to land a pilot position with the airline.
Air Georgian has also offered a mentorship program to Seneca students since 2008. “Seneca will forward us resumes of graduates that stood out, who they strongly recommend,” said Dan Bockner, VP of operations and security at Air Georgian. “We want to take the highest performers from the program and bring them onto the Beech 1900 as first officers with as little as 250 hours of flying time.”
He said Air Georgian has hired a total of about 25 Seneca grads since the beginning of the mentorship program.
“When they come in, they get the same training anyone else does. There are some limitations. The low-time pilots do get 50 per cent more line indoc–60 hours versus 40 hours for a normal hire,” said Bockner. “We’re so comfortable with it that we’re really good at doing it now, and doing it safely and mitigating any risks. Since they perform so well, there really aren’t a lot of risks.”
Lynne McMullen, director of business development at Seneca’s School of Aviation, told Skies that these partnerships are a sign of things to come.
“Ultimately, what will happen is greater collaboration through the industry,” she said. “Schools are moving to partner with industry to move students along on a defined career path and they will choose the program with the pathway option that’s right for them, depending on their ultimate goal.”
Jazz celebrates 10 years; adds University of Waterloo and Conestoga
June 5, 2017: Jazz Aviation LP Press Release
Jazz Aviation LP (Jazz) is celebrating 10 years of the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program (Jazz APP), developed in 2007 to create a streamlined career path for the pilot profession in Canada.
Jazz marks this continued commitment to Canada’s future professional pilots by announcing new agreements with two Ontario-based educational institutions and their aviation programs – Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning (Conestoga) and the University of Waterloo (Waterloo).
“Conestoga and Waterloo both offer high-calibre programs and are excellent additions to the Jazz APP during this milestone year,” said Steven Linthwaite, vice-president, flight operations at Jazz. “We’re pleased that both institutions share our vision of creating a strong future for the pilot profession in Canada and we look forward to furthering our relationship with Conestoga and Waterloo toward these common goals.”
These agreements are the first of their kind between Jazz and both Conestoga and Waterloo. The industry-leading Jazz APP program includes collaboration on training and curriculum to promote safety and professionalism, while providing up-to-date information on industry best practices.
The Jazz APP is aimed at establishing a direct career path for qualifying graduates including flight simulator evaluations, student scholarships, and the opportunity for top-performing aviation graduates to transition to first officer positions at Jazz.
“We are very pleased to work with Jazz to address Canada’s growing need for highly qualified pilots and aviation professionals,” said Andrew Schmitz, chair, School of Liberal Studies at Conestoga. “This new agreement builds on Conestoga’s established strength and reputation in aviation training by providing students with a direct pathway to career success in the industry.”
“The University of Waterloo is pleased to join the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program and welcomes their recognition of the high quality of our aviation graduates,” said Ian McKenzie, director of aviation at Waterloo. “Waterloo acknowledges the strength that industry collaborations and scholarships provide to learning at Waterloo. We are also celebrating our 10th year, and our seventh graduating class, with our graduates currently flying globally-to every continent, even Antarctica. Members of this year’s graduating class are looking forward to the opportunity to be considered for direct entry into a major airline and the Jazz APP offers a four-to-five-year jump start to their aviation career.”
The Jazz APP awards $60,000 each year to top students in recognition of safety and professionalism. Each of the 10 Jazz APP educational institutions awards two $3,000 scholarships:
The Jazz Aviation Pathway Award for Professionalism: Awarded to a full-time student in his or her final year of the aviation program for outstanding contributions to safety, leadership and professionalism. The award consists of a $3,000 scholarship and an opportunity to participate in the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program selection process. The award recipient is selected by the program chair or designate in consultation with Jazz to ensure the criteria as outlined are respected.
The Jazz Aviation Pathway Award for Professionalism and Diversity: Awarded to a full-time student in his or her final year of the aviation program who has self-identified as Aboriginal, a person with a disability, a visible minority, or female; for outstanding contributions to safety, leadership and professionalism. The award consists of a $3,000 scholarship and an opportunity to participate in the Jazz Aviation Pathways Program selection process. The award recipient is selected by the program chair or designate in consultation with Jazz to ensure the criteria as outlined are respected.
Posted on June 5, 2017; Northern Lights Aero Foundation Press Release
Congratulations to our own rising star, Jessalyn Teed winner of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation Elsie Rising Star Award!
The Northern Lights Aero Foundation board has announced the eight recipients of its 2017 aviation and aerospace awards.
Each year, the not-for-profit foundation honours outstanding women who have made a significant contribution in their field and who continue to lay the groundwork to attract other women to enter or excel in these industries.
The foundation’s award program, called the “Elsie,” is named after aviation pioneer and human rights advocate Elsie Gregory MacGill, the world’s first female aircraft designer. MacGill graduated from the University of Toronto’s electrical engineering program in 1927 and later became pivotal in the design and production of the Hawker Hurricane in Canada during the Second World War. During her career, MacGill was appointed to the Canadian Royal Commission on the Status of Women and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
“Elsie was a woman who was not very well known yet made significant contributions toward the advancement of women in Canada,” said Joy Parker Blackwood, president of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation. “Our goal is to bring more recognition for her and all the women doing great work in aviation and aerospace in Canada. They are all awe-inspiring role models for our youth!”
The 2017 recipients are:
Pioneer Award: Maj (ret’d) Dee Brasseur, one of the first two female fighter pilots in Canada, flying the CF-188 Hornet, with 21 years of distinguished service and 2,500 hours of flying jets;
Flight Operations Award: Heather McGonigal, Transwest Air’s director of flight operations, a training captain and a Saab 340 line pilot. A director for four years at the Air Transport Association of Canada, she became chair last year;
Government Award: Col (WSE) Helen Wright CD., MD., a bioscience officer with the Canadian Armed Forces, is one of the preeminent aircraft accident investigators with specialized knowledge in human factors analysis. She also led a team of aerospace medicine specialists responsible for the oversight of the aircrew medical fitness of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Wright is currently deployed on a one-year mission to Bagdad;
Business Award: Heather Bell recently retired as the general manager of the Vancouver FIR (Flight Information Region), Nav Canada. She has had a 33-year career in navigation services. During that time she received both the chairman’s and the president’s award;
Education Award: Joan Williams has more than 30 years in commercial aviation and flight training. She was the flight training manager for Toronto Airways Ltd. for 10 years and then became the director of business development. She is a long-time member and director of the Air Transport Association of Canada and recently received its Lifetime Achievement Award. Williams has been a mentor and role model for many career pilots flying today;
Engineering Award: Catherine Tsouvaltsidis graduated from space engineering. Currently working infrastructure technology solutions (ITS) for TD Bank, Tsouvaltsidis spent six years working in the Canadian Space sector, where she worked on a variety of different projects including the refurbishment and upgrading of a 46-metre radio astronomy dish; design, development and integration of a satellite tracking and monitoring platform; design, development and calibration of a micro-spectrometer aimed to measure soil moisture content from space to be used in large scale soil analysis and farming applications; and the design and development of a UV gas camera used to monitor SO2 volcanic emissions;
Rising Star: Jessalyn Teed is a student at the University of Waterloo (U of W) enrolled in the environmental studies and aviation program. In partnership with the U of W program, she does her flight training at Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC). At U of W and WWFC, Teed has taken on a human factors thesis in aviation, studying the best practice for Millennials in the classroom, which targets the aviation industry as the demand for pilots increases and the practices evolve; and
Rising Star: Candace McKibbon is a terminal duty officer with the Vancouver Airport Authority and an operations agent for Marquise customer service at YVR. In addition, she is the executive director of the B.C. Aviation Council, where she is active in promoting aviation throughout the province.
Other initiatives include a speakers/mentors bureau and a scholarship program. The 2017 Gala Award Dinner will be held on Sept. 30, at the Toscana Conference Centre in Vaughan, Ont. Tickets go on sale in July.
Free Event: May 13, 2019
Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC) in Ontario will be holding its annual Girls Can Fly event on Saturday, May 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is a free educational event that promotes women in aviation and offers free flights for girls aged eight to 18 years.
Registration for flights filled up in two weeks, but a limited number of stand-by spots are available on the flight centre’s website.
“This is an excellent event for girls to learn more about the aviation industry,” said Bob Connors, general manager of WWFC. “This is our sixth year offering the event, which has been hugely successful. Girls and their families will have the opportunity to tour our state-of-the-art facility, meet women in the industry, learn more about aviation and go for a free flight.”
The event will also feature exhibitors from the industry who will have some interactive components.
- Porter Airlines;
- Historica Canada;
- Air cadets;
- Region of Waterloo International Airport;
- University of Waterloo – Science & Geography Aviation programs;
- Kitchener-Waterloo Aero;
- Waterloo on the Grand Ninety-Nines;
- Canadian Owners and Pilots Association;
- Canadian Women in Aviation;
- Hamilton Watch; and
- Anne Hoffman – Toronto Pearson Control Tower controller;
- Siobhan O’Hanlon – First Officer with Sunwing Airlines; and
- Contessa Bishop – Q400 Captain with Jazz Airlines.
“If visitors haven’t been able to sign up for a free flight, I’d still encourage them to come to the event,” said Connors. “It’s a great opportunity for girls and young women to learn and meet women in the industry. It’s truly an inspiring and energized day.”
The event was established to promote the aviation industry to girls and young women. The representation of women in the aviation industry has changed over the years, but there is still a long way to go. And now with the shortage of pilots it’s an even greater opportunity for young women to enter the industry.
The shortage of pilots is not just a Canadian issue. It’s something that is being talked about around the world. Airlines are working with flight schools and taking young pilots to mentor and groom for jobs. It is a practice that has been going on for years in Europe and is now becoming more common in Canada.
Pilots are not the only career in demand. Aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) are also seeing a shortage in recruits and looking for new ways to source staff.
The WWFC aviation program works cooperatively with industry partners to define and deliver training that meets the needs of modern airlines.
“Canadian airlines have stated they’ll be hiring about 1,000 commercial pilots in 2017, but only about 600 Canadians will be produced by Canadian flight schools,” said Connors. “The remainder are international students who train in Canada and return to their home country upon graduation.”
The low rate of women in the aviation industry also plays a factor.
“The ratio of women to men in the aviation industry remains low,” said Connors. “However, that can change with increased awareness and promotion of career opportunities to young women. There are many women pilots, AMEs and controllers who are very successful and well respected and there is huge potential for more.”
WWFC is involved in gender-equality initiatives to reach out to young women and highlight aviation career paths, such as pilots, air traffic controllers and maintenance professionals. WWFC hosts two events, Girls Can Fly and Aviation Fun Day, each year with a focus of introducing the aviation industry to youth and their families. Both events are hugely successful with a large attendance.
On March 24, 2017, Transport Canada announced new recreational drone regulations.
Transport Canada has exclusive jurisdiction over the civil operation of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and model aircraft that operate within Canadian airspace. However, recent changes to the regulations for recreational operations seem to open the door to enforcement by municipalities and local police departments.
On March 13, 2017 the Minister of Transport issued an Interim Order Respecting the Use of Model Aircraft pursuant to 6.41(1) of the Aeronautics Act R.S.C., 1985, c. A-2. This interim order creates regulations for model aircraft or “drones” that weigh anywhere from 250 grams to 35 kilograms and are used for recreational purposes. The regulations currently do not define “recreational purposes”, but Transport Canada adopts the dictionary definition of recreation being “not for work — done for pleasure or relaxation.” The interim order does not affect the current regulations with respect to commercial UAV operations or the necessity of obtaining a Special Flight Operation Certificate (“SFOC”) from Transport Canada for certain operations.
The new regulations require the following of recreational model aircraft or drone operators.
Flights must be conducted
- no higher than 90 meters above ground;
- at least 75 meters from buildings, vehicles, vessels, animals or people/crowds;
- outside a 9 kilometer radius of any airport, heliport, or seaplane base (or any location where aircraft take-off and land);
- outside controlled or restricted airspace (for example, outside Class C airspace controlled by air traffic control centres and Class F Military Operations airspace);
- away from areas that could interfere with police or first responders;
- outside a 9 km radius of a forest fire;
- within 500 meters and within visual-line of site of the operator; and
- during the daylight and outside of cloud;
In addition, the operator’s name, address and telephone number must be clearly marked on the drone.
Failure to comply with the new regulations can result in a penalty of up to $3,000 for an individual. Operations that fall outside of the above parameters can still occur; but only with express permission from Transport Canada.
Transport Canada did not introduce any regulations with respect to potential privacy breaches; though it continues to recommend that model aircraft or drone users avoid flying over private property or taking photos or videos without permission.
In order to ensure the regulations are enforced, Transport Canada has indicated that the local police department must be contacted immediately by anyone who notices that a drone is posing a threat to “safety, security or privacy”. It is also offering a “Drone Incident Report Form” that can be filled out if someone sees that a drone is being flown “in an irresponsible manner without a permit”. Transport Canada is also asking the public to gather evidence such as photos, screenshots or videos in completing the Incident Form. As well, Transport Canada now offers “No Drone” signage for airports, parks and municipalities for the perimeter of their property or event.
Transport Canada is still considering changes to the regulations for commercial operations such as changes to the flight rules, aircraft registration requirements, minimum age limits and knowledge testing. However, for the time being the current regulations for commercial UAV operations and their SFOC requirements are still in effect.
In celebration of Canada’s 150th Birthday, Darin Graham is attempting to fly his small airplane to over 150 airports throughout Canada. This is a tribute to the importance that aviation and airports have played in keeping Canada vibrant and prosperous. Find out more and make a donation!
“The second you leave the ground with your UAV you are a pilot in the eyes of Transport Canada, and you will be held to that standard.”
With that statement, Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre’s Brett Danks commanded the attention of a roomful of would-be commercial drone operators attending the International UAV Show, held Dec. 6 to 7 in Toronto.
Mr. Danks, a flight instructor who teaches WWFC’s UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) pilot training course, delivered some useful tips to those who are considering flying a drone for business purposes.
“First, decide on your needs prior to choosing a drone,” he advised. “Start with the payload–what do you need on the UAV to accomplish your mission? Fixed-wing drones are good for agricultural surveying while helicopters are good for flying heavy cameras.”
He added that UAV pilots must thoroughly understand Canadian airspace classifications and the definition of an aerodrome, which includes not just airports but also hospital helipads, or any location where an aircraft may take off or land.
Original story from Skies Magazine, article by Ben Forrest
Ektaa Pathria remembers seeing her father, Harish, launch himself out of airplanes for the first time when she was around four years old.
Harish was a paratrooper with the Indian Army, and Pathria would see him on practice missions, falling out of the sky with a parachute to slow his descent.
“I never really felt like, ‘Oh, I want to do skydiving’ or anything like that,” said Pathria, now 26 and a flight instructor at the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre in Ontario. “But I always felt that flying that airplane that people are jumping out of, that would be pretty cool.”
The experience of watching her father in action, along with an enjoyable first flight in an Antonov AN-32 military plane, helped spur Pathria toward a career in aviation. Her family moved to Canada when she was 11 and she became an air cadet soon after, a hobby that stoked her ambition to fly. She went on to specialize in commercial aviation management at the University of Western Ontario and started working as a flight instructor in 2012.
“Being in the air, that’s where your office is,” she said. “It’s your workplace, and every time you’re up there, you’ve got a beautiful view. You have this freedom that you probably won’t feel in a car or anything like that—flying in three dimensions, really, and moving around and being able to go anywhere.”
Pathria’s career in aviation may seem predictable in hindsight, but it’s relatively unique. According to the Brampton Flight Centre in Ontario, only six per cent of all private pilots in Canada are women, and women make up only 4.5 per cent of airline transport pilot licence holders.
Numbers in the United States are similar, where only 5.39 per cent of pilots are women, according to statistics compiled by Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, an event that raises awareness of aviation opportunities for girls and celebrates women’s accomplishments in aviation.
Out of the more than 76,000 people reporting an income source as a pilot or engineer, only around 3,200 are women, the organization says.
Those kinds of statistics have inspired a series of events aimed at encouraging girls and women to consider careers in aviation, or to take up flying recreationally. Women of Aviation Worldwide Week runs March 7 to 13 this year and features flying events, open-door events at factories and schools, and museum programs.
In Canada, more than 15,000 people are expected at Abbotsford International Airport in B.C. for The Sky’s No Limit—Girls Fly Too!, an event that offers free flights to female first-time fliers and aims to pique their interest with hands-on ground activities on March 12 and 13.
A similar event is Girls CAN Fly! at the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, being held on March 5 in honour of International Women’s Day.
Girls CAN Fly! also offers free flights, plus the chance to interact with female flight crew from Porter Airlines and representatives from the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Air Cadets and Great Lakes Helicopters, among others.
“We want them to know that if they’re interested in this and flying and being a mechanic and doing any of those things, they can do it,” said Jennifer Vandermolen, organizer of Girls CAN Fly!
“Once upon a time girls didn’t think about being doctors and lawyers, and now lots of doctors and lawyers are female,” added Robert Connors, general manager of the flight centre. “Engineers—the same thing, and we’re trying to reposition piloting and careers in aviation in the same kind of gender-balancing way.”
It’s hoped the free flights will help inspire girls to become pilots, just as a similar experience hooked Jessalyn Teed, a student at the flight centre.
Teed, 20, went up in a four-seater Cessna 172 at a Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) Young Eagles event when she was eight years old.
“From then on, I had always said that I wanted to be a pilot,” she explained. After looking into education opportunities, she settled on a joint program in geography and aviation with the University of Waterloo and Conestoga College.
“I think the whole industry and my class specifically being very male-dominated, it can first be seen as something that’s intimidating,” said Teed. “But I try and approach it with the mindset that, instead of seeing it as an obstacle, seeing it as an opportunity. It really highlights the women that are here, and it helps me to build a community with the women that are here.”
Teed cited the perception that aviation is male-dominated as a barrier to women, adding it’s been hard for women to break down that trend.
Others have pointed to a training system that favours young, mechanically-inclined males or the perception it’s difficult to have a family while also working as a pilot.
“I think that has a lot to do with how women kind of lag behind in aviation, because of the family aspect,” said Pathria. “I mean, there are a lot of women who have gotten over that or who found supporting spouses and kids and a way of dealing with all that. But many women who are trying to enter the industry kind of stop right there.”
Exposure to aviation is another barrier Pathria sees to young women entering the industry.
“Usually boys might get the exposure just from the movies they watch or the toys they play with or anything like that, or just living close to an airport,” she said. “A girl might not get that from the things that she’s exposed to.”
Her message to young girls is simple.
“I feel that if there’s anything in a young girl’s mind that tells them they are at all interested in something like flying, they should definitely give it a chance,” she said. “Try it out and do not be intimidated by knowing that it is a male-dominated industry. That makes no difference at all. It is very much possible to pursue it if you’re willing to work hard.
“If you realize that you have a passion for flying and your passion exceeds the obstacles that you face, then there’s nothing stopping you from achieving what you want to achieve.”
Program gives wings to students with a passion for aviation
Story by: Beth Gallagher
Chelsea-Anne Edwards walks out on the tarmac to the plane she will fly. It’s a sun-drenched fall day and the third-year aviation student looks to the sky. “The clouds are pretty low,” she says. “The higher the clouds, the better.”
There isn’t fear in her voice, though. It’s just an observation for a young woman who has been a pilot for more than a year. She circles the plane and runs her hands along the rudder and the propeller. During her pre-flight “walk-around,” Edwards looks for fuel leaks, checks for missing bolts and inspects the tire tread. She checks the front edge of the wings and makes sure the first aid kit is on board.
Edwards takes off from the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre and flies for two hours, which seems like a long time for a mid-day flight on a school day, but it’s nothing compared to the journey she started two years ago — the one that has taken her from being a high school student in small-town Ontario to a young woman on a career path to become a commercial airline pilot.
Grounded in education
When Edwards touches down, she will head back to Waterloo’s main campus for a late afternoon lecture. As a geography student in Waterloo’s seven-year-old aviation program, Edwards’ course load includes geomatics, climatology, cartography and remote sensing.
In a university recognized globally for innovative experiential education opportunities, Waterloo’s aviation program is a prime example of how rigorous academic studies can blend with hands-on learning to produce graduates ready to embrace the demands of the real world.
Waterloo’s aviation students earn a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Environmental Studies at the same time they become licensed pilots. A relatively new program, aviation has been offered in Waterloo classrooms since the fall of 2007, with flight training beginning the following year. The program is a demanding one, says Aviation Director Ian McKenzie. Students balance a regular course load with flight training. Required ground school and flight labs can take more than 10 hours every week, along with three to four hours of actual flying.
“The students who are successful in the program are the ones who have tremendous time management skills.” – Ian McKenzie
Edwards says she knew in high school that she definitely wanted a university degree. “I knew I wanted to fly but I’m also a person who loves the academic side of learning,” she says.
The field of aviation has evolved significantly over the past 50 years. Aviation and aerospace industries demand a new breed of specialists who have a comprehensive academic background to help them understand complex aircraft systems, and well-developed analytical, critical thinking and decision-making skills. Flight training is a requirement for many aviation and aerospace careers. A university degree is regarded by the airline industry as a valuable asset for a pilot, and is rapidly becoming a requirement for the profession.