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Leading Edge: The power of giving back

The fall is traditionally one of the busiest times in the Canadian aviation industry.


November 14, 2013
By Stacy Bradshaw


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The fall is traditionally one of the busiest times in the Canadian aviation industry. Annual general meetings, conventions and tradeshows fill the calendar, bringing together the industry’s heavy hitters – be they in aerospace, commercial aviation or the rotary world.

As the editor of Wings, it’s my honour to take part in educational sessions and networking opportunities at many of these events to get a better grasp of where various industries are headed, and to report back on key trends, news and issues. From a purely selfish point of view, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to rub shoulders with Canadian aviation leaders, such as the enigmatic Chris Hadfield, whose keynote address during the excellent Aerospace Industries Association of Canada convention in Ottawa Oct. 16-17 was, like the presenter himself, out of this world.

Hadfield’s star as one of Canada’s top cultural icons continues to rise, and the former commander of the International Space Station, now professor at the University of Waterloo, truly represents all that is great about Canadian aviation and aerospace. His outstanding achievements underscore the potential Canadians have on the global aerospace stage and remind us that we all have the ability to inspire and change lives.

In his moving speech, Hadfield spoke of collaboration, teamwork and camaraderie, and of their importance in sparking innovation and helping to transform. He also spoke of passion and a sense of community, one that aviation can provide and help ignite the passions of Canadians of all ages. For anyone who dreams big and seeks ways to make a difference both professionally and in the larger stratosphere of life – by making change for the better in the communities in which we live – it was impossible not to be inspired by Hadfield’s words.

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Many of these themes helped drive a different – but equally significant – event this September in Windsor. Organized by event chairman and Windsor Regional Hospital Patient Education Coordinator Paul McCann, the Top Guns! Kids With Cancer Take Flight event culminated Sept. 29 with a special aviation day. More than 300 attendees – families and friends with children battling cancer – had a chance to experience the many splendours of rotary- and fixed-wing flight. Earlier in the week, none other than Canada’s most famous astronaut touched down at the Windsor Regional Hospital to meet the children of the Paediatric Oncology Satellite Clinic. The events ran in concert with Childhood Cancer Awareness month. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5bvsLt7Jj8)

Dozens of military and civilian aircraft were flown in for the static display for the families to enjoy, including a CF-18 Hornet, a Bell CH-146 Griffon, CT-155 Hawk and a CP-140 Aurora. In total, more than $100 million in military aircraft hardware graced the tarmac. Pilots and engineering teams also were on hand to explain their craft, while free aircraft rides gave all children an opportunity to experience the wonders of flight. Earlier in the week, the iconic Canadian Snowbirds kicked off the event.

As McCann noted in his opening remarks during the event, childhood cancer has a significant financial impact on a family. Research suggests that a family can expect to lose as much as one-third of its after-tax income to out-of-pocket expenses related to care. It’s a significant economic challenge and can create plenty of household stress. Conversely, the Top Gun aviation day gave kids and their families a chance to explore the incredible world of aviation and a chance to break from their daily routines. The Royal Canadian Armed Forces, the Windsor International Airport, the Windsor Flying Club, and the Canadian Historical Aircraft Association went above and beyond to deliver a truly special gift.

Having dealt with the complexities cancer can bring to the family dynamic, I understand the benefits events like these can provide. The escape from routine is invaluable and providing kids an opportunity to dream and experience the wonderful world of aviation is an invaluable gift they won’t soon forget. Wings salutes Hadfield, McCann and all the volunteers who were involved in the creation of this very special gathering. It aptly underscores just what can be accomplished when you collaborate, work together and strive to transform your world – both here and thousands of miles away in space.


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