Women fly free

The St. Andrews airport is hosting an event by the International Ninety-Nines on Mar. 9, where women fly free, in both airplanes and helicopters, to celebrate the International Women of Aviation Week. The event aims to bring awareness of the aviation industry to females, who currently comprise only six per cent of the industry. It is expected to yield over 500 women and introduce them to potential career opportunities.

Many of the women who have never flown before will be educated and inspired through theory of flight demonstrations, information on the history of the aviation industry, and career information booths from the University of Manitoba and other colleges and training centres.

Raymonde de Laroche was the first woman in the world to obtain her private pilot license on Mar. 8, 1910. The first International Women’s Day was celebrated a year later on the same date, which lead to the establishment of the International Women of Aviation Week 100 years later, also on the same date.

Chrissy Perry, a chief flying instructor for Allied Wings at Southport Portage la Prairie, touched upon the fact that the industry is multifaceted.

“There are many exciting and rewarding careers for women to choose; from operational to maintenance, civilian to military, as a career or just for fun,” said Perry. “This event will allow the participants an opportunity to ‘peek in the cockpit’ and take their first steps towards new horizons [ . . . ] setting their dreams free!”

Potential career opportunities include, but are not limited to: nursing, counselling, teaching, design, meteorology, geographers, outer space explorers, airport managers and engineers, and pilots. At the event, women from the industry will have the opportunity to connect with the beginner fliers. Canadian astronaut Pam Melroy will be in attendance at the event to share her experiences.

“The Overview Effect” is a common experience while in space. It is a feeling of total unity with the earth, of ecstasy, and a cognitive shift with a meditative experience that creates a new kind of self-awareness.

Aaron Doherty, assistant chief flight instructor at Harv’s Air Service in Steinbach, told the Manitoban that this event is an important networking opportunity for females who are interested in the aviation industry. Doherty said that the connections they made with people in the industry encouraged their passion and were vital in the early stages of their career.

“Flying is very much a community of individuals who have an interest and passion in all things that are able to get airborne,” said Doherty.

The lack of female representation in the aviation industry is still an unanswered question, but Doherty said that hopefully these types of events will help address the issue, and will help women down a path they may have been longing for all along.

Doherty said that in order to follow the dream of flying, an individual first needs to be passionate and dedicated. Challenges are inevitable in both the academics and training, and differ for each person, but a person needs to be dedicated to surmount them. Next, Doherty said it is imperative to set goals and priorities. Finally, in order to reach these goals and priorities, Doherty said you need to be self-disciplined.

“In the end, the view that one has as they soar through the air makes every moment of challenge worth it.”

Sarah Freeborn, a student at the University of Manitoba, will soon be flying in a small plane for the first time at the event. The geography student has spent a lot of time in the Yukon and recognizes the importance that small planes and the aviation industry has to the world. Freeborn said that she is excited to attend the event and learn more about planes. She is specifically excited to learn about the processes involved, how people become pilots, and the role of women in aviation.

“Airplanes and aviation have played a big role in uniting Canada by providing access to remote parts of the country as well as connecting places that are separated by a great deal of distance – places where we might not otherwise be able to travel,” said Freeborn.