Wings Magazine

Heather Sifton receives Elsie Award

heather_siftonOct. 20, 2009, Markham, Ont. – The Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ) is a long established and respected service provider to the general, business and training aviation markets.

October 20, 2009  By Administrator



Oct. 20, 2009, Markham, Ont. – The Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ) is a long established and respected service provider to the general, business and training aviation markets. The business has been owned and operated by the Sifton family since its inception.

The Elsie MacGill Northern Lights award stands to honour Canadian women who have contributed significantly to any facet of aviation in this country. On Thursday, October 1st, 2009 the Ninety Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots held a dinner in honour of Heather Sifton and presented her with the inaugural Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award.

Mrs. Sifton was a licensed and respected pilot and has been a leader in the Canadian aviation community. In the years since Buttonville was first established, Heather has maintained an important role in all aspects of the development and growth of the airport and its related operations. In addition to her business acumen, Heather has been a positive influence and role model for many aviation students – women in particular.

Joined by members of her family, local aviation and political dignitaries and members of the Ninety Nines, in accepting the honour, Heather commented that “This is a special evening for me and the Sifton family as a whole. I want to thank you for such a tribute. To be surrounded by peers and friends and be honoured by you, makes for yet another truly good memory from all the years we have been involved in the aviation community. Many of you here are more than aviation colleagues – you are personal friends and we grew and share a great love for flying and all that it represents together.”


For over 45 years we have been able to contribute to aviation in Canada. From something that started as a personal interest I have been able to participate in the development of many things – a great business, a collection of truly special people who work with us and call our airport home and a job that has brought me pleasure and self satisfaction.”

About Elsie MacGill
Elsie Gregory MacGill was born in Vancouver, two years after powered flight at Kittyhawk.

MacGill was the first Canadian woman to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Toronto and the first woman in North America with an advanced degree in aeronautics from the University of Michigan. In 1939, as chief engineer for the Canadian Car and Foundry Company in Thunder Bay, Elsie designed, oversaw production and was aboard the test flight of the Maple Leaf Trainer II, making her the first female aircraft designer in the world.

During World War II, Elsie oversaw production of the Hawker Hurricane and she designed a series of modifications including de-icing and skis to equip the Hurricane for cold weather flying. Elsie went on to serve on aeronautical research and regulatory committees for the National Research Council and the United Nations.

During her appointment to the Canadian Royal Commission on the Status of Women, she
supported abortion and tax laws that made women responsible for themselves. In the course of her career and life, Elsie was awarded four honourary doctorates, made an officer of the Order of Canada and in 1975, the Ninety Nines, International Organization of Women Pilots presented her the Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship medallion – among many others.

One interesting note is that Elsie never earned a pilot's license. On the day of her graduation
from U of Michigan, after celebrating late into the night with friends, Elsie went to bed, sore and aching. She woke up the next morning, paralyzed from the waist down, suffering from polio. She was 24. It took her years of hospitals and therapy to learn to walk with two heavy canes. But this did not define her. From the rear seat of the Maple Leaf Trainer, and for thousands of hours hovering over her engineering drafting table, Elsie flew.


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