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.
Commercial drones capture the attention of insurance industry
Story by: Jacqueline Nelson The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016
Companies across Canada are turning to drones to monitor crops, snap pictures for real estate listings and map the oil sands – and insurers are swooping in to cover the risk of hard landings and injuries.
Intact Financial Corp. is the latest to attempt to tap the market for insuring drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which aren’t typically covered under a commercial insurance policy. Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer says the demand from its small and medium-sized business clients is increasing as more of them use drones as part of regular operations, particularly for surveillance in sectors such as farming.
“All of a sudden, they start – rather than walking the fields – using drones to take pictures and see if there are issues,” said Alain Lessard, senior vice-president of commercial lines at Intact. And that comes with potential hazards. “A person could be sued because the drone hit someone.”
While the commercial use of drones is still getting off the ground, it’s a key segment of a global market that is expected to grow to $11.5-billion (U.S.) by 2024, according to Teal Group, an aerospace market analysis firm.
The rise of UAV insurance comes as a wave of new technologies reshapes insurers’ businesses, creating new areas of coverage and ways of connecting with customers. Insurers now have teams dedicated to cyber threats, and some have begun to cover emerging businesses such as ride-sharing. The potential for “disruption” by agile tech companies tapped into changing consumer behaviour is also an ever-present concern, pushing Intact and some competitors to boost their branding and leadership in the digital space.
When it came to drones, Intact found a disconnect between old coverage and new technology.
“As part of our commercial lines policy, [drones] would usually fall into an aircraft definition. All aircraft are usually excluded from our regular policy,” Mr. Lessard said. That was pushing some clients to specialty insurers in the aviation space, even for 2 1/2-kilogram drones. Intact decided it could accommodate these machines alongside its customers’ commercial lines policy.
Rules for operating a UAV for commercial purposes have been clarified by Transport Canada over the past two years and are more lenient than in the United States. But even if businesses meet the exemption criteria and avoid a special flight operations certificate, most still need to have proper liability insurance coverage.
Most drones fall between those used for large military applications and the Frisbee-sized copters flown by hobbyists. These worker drones carry cameras that can collect data and help companies monitor operations and environmental impact faster – and in some cases more safely – than sending a human.
Cenovus Energy Inc. has been testing UAVs since 2013, and has now flown them more than 60,000 kilometres.
The company hopes to monitor pipelines by drone some day. “To be able to do that, we are waiting for Transport Canada to introduce regulations that would allow us to fly our UAVs beyond the line of sight,” Cenovus said in a statement. In the meantime, its three drones are busy mapping out oil sands sites in northern Alberta.
Companies often start with one low-cost drone or work with a third-party provider to prove return on investment, said Andrea Sangster, spokeswoman for UAV maker Aeryon Labs Inc. in Waterloo, Ont.
“We’re seeing growth in the commercial markets with oil and gas and the utilities, as well as cell tower inspection,” Ms. Sangster said. The company’s drones have been used for diverse applications, such as counting salmon swimming upstream, 3D modelling and taking readings of office buildings’ thermal output.
At just a few thousand dollars for some basic drones, companies can get into the game cheaply. Aeryon’s higher-end drones, which can weather cold temperatures and high winds, are priced from $60,000.
Annual revenue from sales of commercial-use drones is projected to soar by 84 per cent this year up to about $481-million, according to a recent international report by Juniper Research.
Mr. Lessard said most operators essentially need the same kind of insurance against physical damage to people or property. Limitations to coverage include using the drone to “take pictures of someone through the window of a hotel or something like that, and that person is being sued,” Mr. Lessard said. “We’re not covering these kind of things.”
When Zurich Canada began offering coverage last year, it excluded noise pollution issues caused by drones, which can sound like swarming bees, as well as sabotage.
Flight school makes Waterloo airport 16th busiest in Canada
Story by: Staff, Metroland News Service
Juyl 10, 2014
BRESLAU — The Region of Waterloo International Airport was 16th busiest airport in Canada for takeoffs and landings last year, thanks in large part to the Waterloo-Wellington Flight Centre.
The flight school accounted for more than 61,000 of 107,000 takeoffs and landings in 2013.
“Flight school causes so much activity on the movements,” said Chris Wood, airport general manager. “They’re constantly doing landings and takeoffs as training.”
Passenger flights accounted for a lower percentage of takeoffs and landings here than at the 11other provincial airports, including London, Hamilton and Windsor.
About 139,000 passengers used the airport in 2013.
Wood said the Canadian ranking is good news but won’t necessarily bring big dollars into the local operation.
“The only way to judge success financially is going to be scheduled (passenger) traffic,” he said. “That’s the only thing that can get us to where we want to go financially.”
The regional airport exempts landing fees for aircraft that weigh less than 3,000 kilograms, and also gives the flight school a discount on fees.
The flight school is charged a flat fee per airplane as part of its lease, Wood said, as opposed to a fee for each landing that other airports charge.
“That’s part of the strategy of growing the business is attracting business with lower fees,” Coun. Sean Strickland said.
Strickland continues to be concerned about the lack of passenger flights.
The airport offers daily flights to Chicago and Calgary. Sunwing offers winter charters to sunny destinations.
“It’s good to see that our airport continues to be busy in terms of takeoffs and landings,” he said. “But the fact remains we’re well under capacity for passenger volume, so good news report but more work to be done.”
It has been a difficult year for the airport, after Bearskin Airlines cancelled flights to Ottawa in March and regional officials dealt with complaints about noisy Arctic charter Nolinor.
Regional officials have put potential expansion plans on hold indefinitely and will decide in September whether to hire someone to drum up business at the airport.
The airport operated at about half its capacity in 2012, handling about 121,000 passengers. It received a taxpayer subsidy of about $6.3 million.
Wood said officials are concentrating on getting new Ottawa service and also seeking other business.
“It’s a dynamic industry and business, that’s for sure,” Wood said. “(Airlines) want to know that they’re going to make money in your market and we have a great story to tell — we’re the biggest underserved market in Canada.”
He added money isn’t the only indication of the airport’s value, noting the popularity of the flight school and the pilots it trains.
The busiest flight training centre in Ontario
Story by: Chris Pope, 570 News
September 3, 2015
The Waterloo-Wellington Flight Centre continues to be the go-to spot for people in our region who want to become a pilot.
The Region of Waterloo International Airport was ranked the busiest flight training centre in Ontario, when it comes to flights that take-off, and land at the same airport.
General Manager Bob Conners says 60 per cent of their business is training young people who want to be pilots, mostly in partnership with Conestoga College and University Waterloo.
“The other 40 per cent of our business is supporting and assisting people who want to fly recreational, most of whom live relatively locally, to either get a private pilots license or to rent an airplane or to enhance their knowledge or skill,” says Conners.
Conners says they have 23 planes, and they fly between 14-and-16 thousand hours a year.
Drones: This year’s hot gift a safety headache for regulators
Story by: Catherine Thompson, The Kitchener-Waterloo Record
WATERLOO REGION — They’re one of the hottest Christmas gifts this year, but drones are causing big headaches as regulators try to draft rules fast enough to keep up with a big influx of the them.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates aviation in the United States, predicts one million drones will be sold south of the border this Christmas season.
While no one expects anywhere near that number to be sold in Canada, authorities are gearing up for a surge of people who snap up the devices as a great holiday gift.
“Drones are a popular portion of our toys business and they’re touted to be best gifts this holiday,” says Elliott Chun, Best Buy Canada’s communications manager.
Hundreds of models are available. At Best Buy in Waterloo, the windows are plastered with drone photos, and you can walk in and pick up a drone for $200. Online, you can buy one of more than two dozen models, ranging in price from $120 to $4,500.
They appeal to everyone from hobbyists “who just like to fly and/or race” to professionals wanting top-quality equipment, Chun says.
Because anyone can walk into a store and buy one, or order one online, and there’s no requirement to get a licence or register the devices, Canadian regulators admit they have no idea how many drones are out there already.
That easy access means many of the people who pick up a drone at Best Buy or Staples may not realize what the risks are, and may not be aware there are regulations around how to fly them. They may not be looking out for potentially deadly obstacles such as hydro lines.
Drones are becoming more visible in Waterloo Region. Last month, a plane taking off from the Region of Waterloo International Airport came within three metres of a drone, just three months after several pilots spotted a drone flying near the end of an airport runway.
A drone reportedly flew over the thousands of spectators at this year’s Oktoberfest parade. Online, there are local drone-shot videos of this year’s ChristKindl Market and the light rail construction construction.
What most people don’t realize, though, is that many of those uses are illegal.
CAMBRIDGE- With the safety of drone owners, innocent bystanders and airplane occupants all at stake, it’s important to know what to do with these popular gift items.
That’s the message from the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, which for the first time will offer a course for recreational drone owners.
Watch WWFC RPAS (drone) training program feature on CTV News:
Regional airport is busiest training Centre in Ontario
Story by: Catherine Thompson
September 2, 2015
BRESLAU — For John Dabu, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of being in command of your own airplane.
Dabu, 21, got the travel bug as a young violinist, travelling to different musical competitions. The excitement of being in the airport and in a plane, flying off to new places, has never left him, but being able to actually fly the plane is another experience altogether.
“You get to control the plane, and feel what it’s doing. It’s definitely a lot better than being a passenger,” he said.