Wings Magazine

Elsie MacGill Awards Gala set to soar

The 9th annual Elsie MacGill Awards Gala is set to go Sat. Sept. 30 in Vaughan, Ont. and this year’s gathering promises to be a truly special event.

September 20, 2017  By Northern Lights Aero Foundation

Eight outstanding women from a variety of aviation and aerospace fields will be honoured by the not-for-profit Northern Lights Aero Foundation.

The women recognized by this important program continue to lay the groundwork to attract other women to enter or excel in these competitive and diverse 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” says 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 – Major (retired) Dee Brasseur, one of the first two female fighter pilots in Canada, flying the CF-18 Hornet, with 21 years of distinguished service and 2,500 hours of flying jets.

Flight operations award – Heather McGonigal, worked at Transwest Air’s director of flight operations, a training captain and a Saab 340 line pilot. A director for four years at the Air Transportation Association of Canada (ATAC), she became chair last year. Currently she is working at Keewatin Air as their DFO.

Government award– Colonel (WSE) Helen Wright CD. MD. A medical officer with the Forces, she is one 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 RCAF. Helen is currently deployed on a one-year mission to Baghdad.

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 ATAC and recently received their lifetime achievement award. Joan 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, Catherine spent six years working in the Canadian space sector. There, 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 (UW) enrolled in the environmental studies and aviation program. In partnership with the UW program, she does her flight training at Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC). At UW and WWFC, Jessalyn 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.

Rising star – Candace McKibbon is a terminal duty officer with the Vancouver Airport Authority and a former operations agent for Marquis Customer Service at YVR. In addition she is the executive director of the B.C. Aviation Council where she is active promoting aviation throughout the province.

Other initiatives include a speakers/mentors bureau and a scholarship program. For additional information and tickets:


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