Wings Magazine

MacGill inducted into Pioneer Hall of Fame

May 16, 2012, Markham, Ont. - Canadian aviation pioneer, Elsie MacGill, was inducted into the Pioneer Hall of Fame at the 23rd Annual International Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas, Tex., in March.

May 16, 2012  By Carey Fredericks

Nicky Soulsby, the great great granddaughter of MacGill, and Anna Pangrazzi, president of the Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award, accepted the award, posthumously, on MacGill’s behalf. Soulsby is currently studying engineering at the University of Victoria, B.C., following in the footsteps of her great great grandmother.

Elsie MacGill is often cited as the first woman in the world to qualify as an aircraft designer and aeronautical engineer. In 1927 she was the first woman to receive a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Toronto, and two years later she became the first woman to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan. That year she became partially paralyzed from the waist down after contracting polio.

During World War II, MacGill was appointed Chief Aeronautical Engineer for the Canadian Car and Foundry Plant in Fort William, Ont., and became known as the Queen of the Hurricanes. She promoted mass production techniques for the aviation industry, modified the Hawker Hurricanes for winter use and established standards for test flights. She was also the first woman to serve as the Chair of a United Nations aviation technical committee, which led to the drafting of the first airworthiness regulations for the newly formed International Civil

Organization (ICAO). Later in life she became an activist for women’s rights and sat on the Royal Commission for the Status of Women. She died in 1980.


The Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award was established in 2009 to recognize the many women who have made great contributions to the aviation and aerospace industries in Canada. It hosts an annual Awards Night which honours women now in four separate categories: Flight Ops/Maintenance, Government, Business, and Rising Star.

This year’s event will take place on Friday, Sept.28 at The School Restaurant in Unionville, Ont. For more information, visit


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