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Canadian college options by province
Leaders from Canada’s aviation and aerospace sector in June 2018 gathered at Downsview Park in Toronto to celebrate investments made into what will become one of North America’s leading aerospace hubs. The event took place in a heritage aviation building that has been transformed into an aircraft cabin interior research facility of Ryerson University’s Aerospace Engineering program.
Maintenance, repair and Overhaul (MRO) education by province
Fixed wing, rotary wing and remotely piloted training centres by province
The Northern Lights Aero Foundation in September 2018 presented its 10th annual Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Awards. Each year, the not-for-profit foundation honours outstanding women who have made significant contributions in Canadian aviation and aerospace.
Boeing in mid-2018 released its annual Pilot & Technician Outlook report, projecting demand for 790,000 pilots over the next 20 years. This represents double the current workforce, explains the company, and what it describes as the most significant demand in the report’s nine-year history.
Pioneer Award
Major Micky Colton, Royal Canadian Air Force, retired
Colton joined the Canadian Forces as a pilot March 1980 and graduated with wings in 1982. She was posted on the C130 Hercules at the following Squadrons; 436 Sqn Trenton, 429 Sqn Winnipeg, 435 Sqn Edmonton, 424 Sqn Trenton (twice), 426 Sqn Trenton (twice).

She also served as an Air Transport Operations Duty Officer (dispatch job), Wing Flight Safety Officer, Trenton, and C130 Standards and Evaluation officer at Transport and Rescue Evaluation Team (TRSET) Trenton. Colton retired from the regular force in October 2011 and joined the Air Force Reserves the next day. She just retired on May 30, 2018, as a Reservist Duty Operations Officer for 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron, Trenton.

Return to list of 2018 Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

A favourite story on my journey, by Micky Colton: I was in Moose Jaw on the jet phase of my military wings training.  The progression is to train on clear hood missions (read as Visual Flight conditions) and move on to instrument, navigation and formation flights before graduation. I had only completed part of the clear hood flying phase and had started IFR training, I could climb/descend and make turns on instruments. One afternoon, my instructor gave me my marching orders and sent me out solo to practice simple aerobatics and then rejoin the circuit for a few touch and goes before terminating. It is important to note that the Tutor aircraft was also called the 2,000-pound whistle as it did not carry a whole lot of fuel. Also of note, there were, and probably still are, two parallel runways in the Jaw. The outer was for touch and goes and the inner was for full-stop landings.  

I was out in the practice area, merrily practicing loops and rolls and a call came in from the tower recalling all of the solos back to land. I came back for a rejoin on long final for the outer runway and got cut off by another aircraft coming in on a shorter diagonal to base leg. I asked to fly through between the runways and join the pattern for the inner. I was given authority to do so and, as I flew between the runways, I could see that the departure end was pretty fuzzy-looking weather-wise. But, like the newbie I was, I carried on. I was cleared to turn right to join the inner pattern just as I flew into the soup.  By the time I realized there was nothing to be seen out of my window and transitioned to instruments, I was in a 60 degree and increasing right turn and heading downwards at a good clip from 1,000 feet above ground. 
I hit the stick, righted the aircraft and slammed on the power and started to climb. My parachute harness was vibrating from the speed. My heart was racing. As I climbed through 1,000 feet I called the tower and told them I was lost – because I was. None of this mincing around with being temporarily unsure of my position, I was downright lost. Tower told me to climb until I hit VFR conditions. I broke out at 19,000 feet. Moose Jaw had gone zero visibility, zero cloud height from a huge grass fire just west of the base. Tower asked if I knew how to fly a lost pattern. Two-minute triangles! I could do that. They vectored another instructor and a classmate up to me. Prettiest thing I have ever seen was that Tutor punching up through the clouds beside me.

The other instructor had me become formation lead (my first formation flight!) and he vectored me to Regina as we weren’t getting into Moose Jaw anytime soon. He told me later that I didn’t vary more than a degree of the headings he gave me. Nothing like a little terror to make your hands steady. He set me up on final for landing runway at Regina (40 nm or so from Moose Jaw) and flew beside me until I landed. He also told me to wait for him just off the runway. I waited quite a while as he flew into the smoke front, which had raced us all the way to Regina and had to recover IFR. I didn’t tell him until we were finally parked that my low fuel light had been on for quite a while on final approach. I called my instructor, he gave me hell for leaving the circuit! But then he came to get me and flew me back to the Jaw after the smoke went through. I learned then and there to trust my instruments and my instincts – a scary but valuable lesson.

Return to list of Elsie Award winners for more personal stories
Flight Operations Award
Julie Beverstein, assistant chief pilot, recruitment and retention, Porter Airlines
Beverstein has been flying for 20 years. She started flying lessons at the Island Airport while pursuing her BSc at the University of Toronto. She then went to Seneca College to complete her initial flight training. Beverstein was a flight instructor for five years before working for Air Georgian out of Toronto Pearson.

Beverstein joined Porter Airlines in 2009 and today she is an active line pilot and training captain. She leads the pilot hiring and all pilot recruitment initiatives at Porter, which in part includes hosting airline open houses, Porter Airlines Early Connection program and the Destination Porter mentoring program, a partnership with 13 fight colleges coast to coast, as well as the Porter Star Award.

Return to list of 2018 Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

A favourite story on my journey, by Julie Beverstein: Anyone who knows me knows I have a no filter and will often speak my mind without thinking it through. This has definitely created some embarrassing situations once or twice. This story is from almost 10 years ago when I was a pilot at Air Georgian. We were sent off to Bedford Massachusetts to pick up some passengers and fly them to Buffalo, wait, and then fly them back to Toronto.

It was a hot day, no air conditioning, and when a small bus of passengers arrived we starting working quickly to load the plane and get going. For some reason I had it in my mind we were picking up teachers from a conference. After the small bus backed up to the cargo door, we began loading. We were loading boxes and odd shaped pieces of luggage. I picked up one that was clearly a set of drum kit cymbals. I looked at the guy in charge of the group and asked, “Are these cymbals?” “Yes,” he replied. I then asked, “Are you in a band or something?” He looked at me confused and said “Have you heard of Pink Floyd?”

I thought he was full of it and said, “Yeah, whatever – keep Loading!” Once the loading was done and I went on the plane to brief the passengers, I realized they were old and British and looked like they may have lived through a thing or two! I thought oh, crap! Anyway, it was hot and we had a job to do.

Soon after, we could hear the women backup singers singing and the captain said, “How annoying.” I agreed and explained the back was loaded with instruments, that one of the passengers mentioned Pink Floyd, but as if they would be flying Air Georgian. Well, wouldn’t you know it! It was Roger Waters and his band. They were flying to Buffalo to perform.

We had the manifest for customs and a quick search on our phone verified I had once again put my foot in my mouth. Although I do my best to be professional at all times, this story is a reminder that you never know who is on your plane as a passenger and a momentary pause to think before speaking can save a lot of embarrassment.

Return to list of Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

Government Award
Emily Crombez, captain, WestJet Airlines
Crombez was the first female to crew the Bombardier CL-415 waterbomber for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. She graduated from Confederation College’s Aviation Flight Management program as Class Valedictorian and Female Athlete of the Year.  

Following graduation, Crombez flew as a bush pilot in North-eastern Ontario, which included three seasons flying the iconic de Havilland Beaver on floats. She was hired by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as a Twin Otter captain and was selected to take part in unique operations such as aerial rabies vaccinating and polar bear surveys. Currently, Crombez is flying the Boeing 737 for WestJet Airlines.

Return to list of 2018 Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

A favourite story on my journey, by Emily Crombez: It was a typical Spring day on red alert in Thunder Bay, Ont. – sitting around, waiting for the fire bell to sound. A friend stopped by for a tour of the mighty CL-415 waterbomber. Everyone is amazed by the three by five inch probes that scoop 1,350 imperial gallons of water in only 12 seconds. Of course, mid-tour is when the bell sounds and we have five minutes to be airborne and enroute to a fire near Stanley, just west of Thunder Bay.

My friend happens to live in that direction, so her tour turned into a live action-packed afternoon of watching us bomb a grass and brush fire that was threatening houses in the area. We were scooping water out of Lake Superior – this was the closest water source that wasn’t still frozen in early Spring.  

Our standard calls after airborne with a load of water are “Tanker 272 up with a load.” As we were scooping and transitioning through the Thunder Bay control zone, we were repeatedly making these calls to tower. After a few radio calls, I mistakenly changed the phraseology to “Tanker 7-up…with a load” and immediately looked left at my captain who was already laughing.

Red in the face, knowing I had several friends flying for local operators who heard me, on top of Tower and the fellow tanker working the fire with us, I knew I’d hear about it. I thought the text messages and voicemails post landing poking fun at my 7-up were the end of it, until I showed up to the tanker the next morning, and there was a note “You ordered this from the Tower folks,” along with four cans of seven-up on my seat! It turned out to be an exciting day for my friend, and a few good laughs to keep the tanker base and tower entertained.

Return to list of Elsie Award winners for more personal stories
Business Award
Julie Mailhot, chief operating officer, Air Georgian
Mailhot started with Air Canada in 1987 as a Customer Service Agent and has progressed up the organizational ladder. She was the company’s first female flight dispatcher and eventually became the division’s chief of operations, managing a group of 80 flight dispatchers.

Mailhot currently serves as chief operating officer at Air Canada Express/Air Georgian.  She has served many other organizations in various positions and received the Art of Excellence Award from Air Canada. She is also president of the Dreams Take Flight Toronto Chapter and has been involved with the charity for the last 21 years.

Return to list of 2018 Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

Favourite moments on my journey, by Julie Mailhot: My career in aviation began in 1987, working in reservations and later at the Dorval airport. In the early 90s, while working in the Weight and Balance department, I had the opportunity to chat with flight dispatchers quite regularly and became interested in dispatching. In 1994, I heard of an opening in the Flight Dispatch Department in Toronto and immediately inquired about qualifications for the position. I was quickly dissuaded, being told there were no women in this position, and that I would need to become a pilot.

Determined, I took a private pilot course and immersed myself with books and other materials to study meteorology on my own time. In 1995, my dedication paid off, and I was hired as the first woman assistant flight dispatcher at Air Canada. While this was a great accomplishment, still others did not recognize my value – often having me file papers and do other clerical work rather than assisting in dispatching.

In 1996, I was able to obtain my licence after successfully passing the Transport Canada operations and meteorology exams. For about six months after becoming a licensed flight dispatcher, every time a pilot would call for a briefing or to ask a question they would ask to speak to the real flight dispatcher, or would request a supervisor, as they did not trust what I would tell them.

Later, I went on to become the first woman chief duty dispatcher, then chief of operations, and ended up being the director of the entire department which included Flight Dispatch, Aeronautical Support, and Weight and Balance. Today, I am proud to hold the position of chief operating officer at Air Georgian, overseeing all aspects of our operations, and helping to prepare Air Georgian for future growth opportunities.

There has been a lot of awareness recently about the lack of women in aviation, whether it be in pilot or flight dispatcher positions, in maintenance, or management. Looking back at my journey, and the struggles I faced progressing in aviation, this is not surprising. However, the industry has progressed, and due to the dedication and commitment of fellow female leaders in aviation, we are creating greater awareness and opportunities for women in our industry.

The negativity and discrimination I faced was fuel for the fire, motivating me to push for change in a field I am passionate about. I am so proud today to be able to speak about my journey, and hopefully inspire other young women to pursue their passions regardless of any negativity they face. Girls can fly!

Return to list of Elsie Award winners for more personal stories
Education Award
Dr. Alexandra Kindrat, educator and research scientist
Kindrat is an educator and research scientist from Montreal. She performs research on mathematics instruction, as well as visual depth perception at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, Texas, and on the International Space Station. She is a private pilot, and, along with her teaching duties in Montreal, Kindrat has been a member of the teaching faculty at NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholar Program.

Kindrat has also has served as co-chair at the International Astronautical Congress in the Human Space Endeavours Virtual Forum held in Naples, Italy, and in Cape Town, South Africa. She has provided input as an educational consultant for the Space Advisory Board roundtable on Canada’s future in space for the Canadian Space Agency.

Return to list of Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

A favourite story on my journey, by Alexandra Kindrat: One never knows where life’s journey will lead, or which past experiences will open doors to incredible future opportunities. At 17 years of age, when I earned my private pilot’s license, I never expected to be conducting research at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, nor have the opportunity to collaborate with astronauts and space physiologists in conducting research on the International Space Station, or have my space research presented at international conferences.

After completing my Master’s degree in Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and further obtaining my teaching license, I was awarded a scholarship to study at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France. As a result of having a background in health and medical sciences, as well as aviation, I was asked to join a team of researchers that would conduct research on the International Space Station. This was certainly an extraordinary experience for me.

Under the leadership of space physiologist Dr. Gilles Clement and Canadian astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk, our research team conceived and designed experiments aimed to investigate depth perception in astronauts during and after spaceflight by studying their sensitivity to reversible perspective figures, wherein two-dimensional images could elicit two possible depth representations. In simpler terms, our study aimed to investigate if the reversal between perceptions of a given image was faster or slower in a micro-gravity environment compared to on Earth.

After its conception, our experiment was entered in a contest entitled The Aerobatics Zero-Gravity Challenge, which would allow our team to fly our experiment on a parabolic flight, prior to being conducted on the International Space Station. Our research experiment won and our team travelled to Barcelona, Spain, to conduct our experiment on a parabolic flight. The following year, after finalizing our research experiment, I had the opportunity to present our research proposal to astronauts at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Six astronauts agreed to participate in our research experiment, and they were tested over four sessions during their six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. They were then tested again after returning to Earth. The results obtained revealed that depth perception is altered in space compared to on Earth. On Earth, participants reported seeing one percept of the reversible figure 70 per cent of the time, whereas during spaceflight each percept was visible for equal amounts of time.

Collaborating on this research was certainly an incredible and wonderful experience for me. Our research was presented at conferences in Belgium, Germany, South Africa, The Netherlands and Italy.  As an educator, I refer to this experience often when speaking with my students. I encourage them to continue setting goals for themselves. One never knows where past experiences may lead. If one continues to work hard, opportunities will always present themselves.

Return to list of 2018 Elsie Award winners for more personal stories
Engineering Award
Niloofar Moradi, Turbine Design, Pratt & Whitney Canada
Moradi earned her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Concordia University and launched her career at Rolls Royce Canada in the energy sector. Moradi later joined Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) as an aerodynamicist, where she was involved in all aspects of turbine aerodynamics. In 2016, concurrent with her design work at P&WC, Moradi earned her Master’s degree from École de Technologie Supérieure as a significant player in the creation of a multi-disciplinary design optimization system. She currently works in the Turbine Mechanical Design department, designing and integrating turbine components.

Moradi received the 2018 Concordia Young Alumni Award and was a 2018 recipient in Wings' Canada’s Top 20 Under 40 program (Agents of Change, July/August 2018).

A favourite story on my journey: [Editor's note] Unfortunately, Niloofar was in the middle of a major project at P&WC and unable to provide a personal story. (Look for more on her accomplishments via WINGS magazine in the weeks ahead).

Return to list of 2018 Elsie Award winners for more personal stories
Rising Star Award
Larissa Chiu, president, University of British Columbia Aviation Club, and chair, Waypoint Aviation Connections
From a young age, Chiu quickly took after her father’s interest for aviation. She enrolled into the Royal Canadian Air Cadet program and obtained her glider and private licenses, and went on to be the only female cadet familiarization pilot in her region. She has since rerolled back into the program as an officer after graduating in May 2018.

Chiu is currently the president of the University of British Columbia’s Aviation Club and the chair of the Waypoint Aviation Connections Conference, which is a student-lead networking event aimed to help students’ network with others by sharing ideas and knowledge of the aviation industry. Chiu aspires to become an Angel Flight pilot, flying passengers who are in need of medical treatments that may not be available near their rural homes.

Return to list of 2018 Elsie Award winners for more personal stories

A favourite story on my journey, by Larissa Chiu: Breathe. Bank left, enter downwind leg at circuit altitude. Pre-landing checklist. Check. Power back, slow down airspeed, flaps down to 10 degrees. Breathe. Bank left, continue to decrease airspeed. “This is the shortest field I’ve ever seen! Now I know why Charlie said you have to come in at 60 knots to make it,” my friend trailed off, staring in awe.

Breathe. Bank left, flaps down to 30 degrees, maintain airspeed at 60 knots, keeping that approach path and attitude steady. Landing too low... ditch. Coming in too high... ditch. Making the finest adjustments in power, not teetering off that approach path. Approaching aiming point, power idle, flare right over the runway numbers, eyes on the horizon, hold off and hover just over the pavement for a smooth landing. Main wheels down. Flaps up. Breaks. Breathe.

Laying out my maps and charts, I looked over the flight plan I had prepared the night before as I anxiously awaited for my friend to arrive. I thought landing on an 1,800 foot runway with both ends bounded by water would be fun and challenging for an amateur pilot like myself, as I ran through my flight plan again before departing for our home airport.

“Hey where are you heading off to?” asked Mike the flight instructor. “Victoria International Airport then over to Courtney Airpark.” “Oh – that’s a short runway. Have yet to land there myself. Just you?” he speculated, baring a slight tension in his eyes.

“Well, Victor will be flying with me, and he’s flying the leg back,” I responded, almost as if to subconsciously reassure myself. I saw his eyes relax; he wished me good luck and left.

Exiting off the taxiway at CAH3, a grin stretched across my face over the excited commotion of my friends and I after a textbook short field landing. This is why I live to fly: To share these exhilarating moments with fellow pilots, but beyond that, to inspire others to fly. It gives me great joy and sense of honour to be able to take my friends, family, cadets and anyone in the community who is willing to let me share my passion for aviation, and show them a different perspective of the world we live in.

I love finding new challenges that push to perfect my skills. This landing was nothing out of the ordinary for any pilot, but the moment was one of many that pushed aside the stirring self-doubt I had, and reinforced a sense of confidence in myself. Bit by bit, every time you push beyond your own perceived capabilities, you build upon your self-confidence. Never doubt yourself. I really believe one can do anything they set their mind to.

Return to list of Elsie Award winners for more personal stories
Even in a tight labour market, unlocking the door for the chosen career is going to be tough. Education will always be the key. Recruiters are more likely to put candidates with a college degree or university closer to the top of the list, especially if the post-secondary program includes studies in fields linked with aviation. Indeed, it is estimated that up to 95 per cent of pilots hired by commercial operators also have a college degree.
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