Wings Magazine

2012 Elsie MacGill award winners announced

June 15, 2012, Markham, Ont. - The Elsie MacGill Northern Lights (EMNL) Award program has announced its 2012 winners. The prestigious award is named after aviation pioneer Elsie MacGill who had a pivotal role in the design and production of the Hawker Hurricane in Canada during the Second World War, earning her the title, “Queen of the Hurricanes.”

June 15, 2012  By Carey Fredericks

MacGill was the first Canadian woman to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering and the first woman in North America to earn an advanced degree in aeronautics.

The national award program, recently incorporated as the Northern Lights Award Foundation, was established in 2009 to recognize the outstanding achievements of women in aviation and aerospace in Canada. Since its inception, the award has grown from one to four award categories that now include: Flight Operations/Maintenance, Business, Government, and Rising Star.

Hailing from all across Canada, the 2012 winners have roots in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia.


Flight Operations/Maintenance Award
Born in 1929 in New Brunswick near the present day Saint John Airport, Regina (Gina) Jordan is the recipient of the Flight Operations/Maintenance Award.  Retired from professional flying, Jordan accumulated over 17,000 hours of flight in her long and accomplished aviation career which included owning her own flight school in Calgary, flying oil rig workers throughout northern Alberta and Saskatchewan as a corporate pilot, and flying for the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) as a missionary pilot in Africa, the second woman ever to do so. She was also a director of MAF from 1996 until 2001.


During her years as a flight instructor, Jordan mentored thousands of student pilots, many who continued on to become career pilots. She was also the first woman in Canada to earn an Airline Transport Rating. After retirement from professional flying, Jordan returned to her roots in New Brunswick where she was actively involved with CASARA (Civil Air Search and Rescue Association) for many years. She currently lives in New Brunswick.

Government Award
Mary Ellen Pauli is the recipient of the EMNL Government Award. Pauli was born and raised in Northern Quebec, her father a career pilot who flew Lancasters in World War II. Earning her helicopter licence at Fredericton Helicopters Ltd. in New Brunswick in 1979, Pauli persevered in a male dominated industry to secure employment with Trans Quebec Helicopters (TQH) in 1980, flying in and out of mining bush camps from its Matagami base. Subsequently, she became base manager at Trans Canada Helicopters for two years before flying as a rotation pilot on the James Bay Hydro Project.

In 1986, Pauli became one of the first helicopter pilots employed by the Ontario government, flying for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) in its newly acquired helicopter fleet. Until recently, she was the only female permanent staff pilot in the 85 year history of the OMNR.

Pauli’s hard work and determination has earned her many accolades in her career including an Outstanding Service Award in 1988 for her help in the great Canadian ice storm, the P.R.I.D.E. Award from MNR in 2004 for her projects on James Bay, and the Governor General of Canada's Commendation Award for the rescue of persons in August of 2004 on the Hudson's Bay Coast.  She was also inducted into the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre in Sault Ste Marie as part of its Women in Aviation Display. Pauli offers strong encouragement to all women who care to follow in her footsteps saying, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” An accomplished musician, Pauli lives in Timmins.

Business Award

Nicole Saulnier is the winner of the EMNL Business Award. Saulnier is co-owner, chief pilot and operations manager of Georgian Bay Airways (GBA) in Parry Sound, Ont., currently in its tenth season of operations.

After receiving a diploma in advertising from Georgian College and working her way up the corporate ladder, Saulnier realized that flying float planes was her true calling. She has logged thousands of hours flying the de Havilland Beaver in northern Ontario, B.C.’s west coast and over the 30,000 islands of Georgian Bay.

Leaving the nomadic life of a bush pilot behind, Saulnier ended up flying as chief pilot with a floatplane operation in Parry Sound, Ont. When the opportunity arose, Nicole and her husband bought the base and started a new floatplane operation where Saulnier has worked tirelessly to grow and transform Georgian Bay Airways into a thriving business that today employs 20. 

Nicole acts as a mentor to women in new businesses. For the past five years she has been the 1st vice president with the Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce and she has been asked to be the president in 2013. She also sits on numerous community and regional tourism and marketing boards. Her career tips for women in aviation are: don’t take no for an answer; never give up; set a goal and do what it takes to get there; don’t doubt your abilities; you can have a career and family, it just requires less sleep and more determination to follow your head, not your heart.

Rising Star Award

Erika Kangas is the recipient of the Rising Star Award. Kangas grew up in northern British Columbia and Sudbury, Ont. Moving to Toronto to attend the Aerospace Engineering program at Ryerson University, Kangas was selected to be a participant in the Ryerson Institute for Aerospace Design and Innovation (RIADI) program. In 2006 she worked as a summer intern in the Engineering department at Pratt & Whitney Canada and the following two years her summer internships were spent at Bombardier Aerospace. In her final year at Ryerson, she was elected as student chairperson for RIADI, and after completing her degree in Aerospace Engineering, Kangas was hired by Bombardier.

As a member of the Graduate Development Program at Bombardier, Kangas has worked with a variety of engineering groups including, Liaison, Airworthiness, Flight Test and Mechanical Systems. Working as a Flight Test Engineer for the Bombardier Q400 program, she participated in many test programs; earlier this year, she was the Flight Test Engineer on board the first biofuel flight in Canada.

Kangas is involved in many voluntary programs at Bombardier including the Children’s Activity which encourages youth to learn and pursue aviation and engineering related interests. Kangas is currently working towards her Canadian Private Pilot Licence.

Past winners of the Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award include Heather Sifton, former president and CEO of the Buttonville Municipal Airport; Kathy Fox, retired VP Operations for Nav Canada and currently an appointed member of the Transportation Safety Board; and Roberta Taylor, an aviation trailblazer and social activist who now teaches at the University of Victoria.

The 2012 Award recipients will be honoured at a gala ceremony and dinner on September 28 at The School restaurant in Unionville, Ont.

To read the full bios of these four extraordinary women, and to learn more about the Northern Lights Award Foundation, visit, or contact Andrea Kwasnik at


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