Wings Magazine

Careers in Aviation Aviation This Week
Northern lights Foundation Supporting the growth of women in Canadian aviation

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.

January 16, 2019  By Wings Staff

The program is named after aviation pioneer Elsie Gregory MacGill, the world’s first female aircraft designer. She graduated from the University of Toronto’s electrical engineering program in 1927. During the second World War, MacGill was a key figure in the design and production of the Hawker Hurricane in Canada.

Anna Rusinowski of Northern Lights  worked with the 2018 honourees to compile favourite stories from their journey through Canadian aviation and aerospace, including this year’s two Rising Star Award recipients, university students Larissa Chiu and Katie Gwozdecky.

Rising Star Award Winner
Larissa Chiu, President | University of British Columbia Aviation Club, and chair, Waypoint Aviation Connections


Chiu enrolled into the Royal Canadian Air Cadet program and obtained her glider and private pilot licenses, becoming the only female cadet familiarization pilot in her region. She graduated from the cadet program in May 2018 and currently serves as the president of the University of British Columbia’s Aviation Club, as well as chair of the Waypoint Aviation Connections Conference, a student-lead initiative built around aviation networking. Chiu aspires to become an Angel Flight pilot, flying passengers who are in need of medical treatments without access to nearby facilities.

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,” said Victor, who joined my on the flight.

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 bound by water would be fun and challenging for an amateur pilot like myself. 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.” He said, “Oh – that’s a short runway. Have yet to land there myself. Just you?”

“Well, Victor will be flying with me, and he’s flying the leg back.” I then saw Mike’s 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 me to perfect my skills. This landing was nothing out of the ordinary for any pilot, but it was one of many that pushed aside and of my stirring self-doubt. Bit by bit, every time you push beyond your own perceived capabilities, you build self-confidence. Never doubt yourself. I really believe one can do anything they set their mind to.

Rising Star Award
Katie Gwozdecky I MSc candidate, Flight Lab, University of Toronto

Gwozdecky is a private pilot and graduate of the University of Toronto’s Mechanical Engineering program. She joined the University of Toronto Aerospace Team, where she served as Director of Space Systems and helped pass a student levy, raising nearly half a million dollars to fund the launch of the first amateur satellite from U of T, HERON MKII, in 2019 – a first of its kind program in Canada. Gwozdecky is now pursuing a MASc at the U of  T’s Space Flight Lab.

A favourite story on my journey, by Katie Gwozdecky: The cross-country flight for my PPL was quite an experience. I had already completed my PPL flight test, so I wasn’t worried about my skills, but flying alone to two different airports is very different than performing steep turns and special landings with an instructor. I flew the trip with my primary instructor a few days prior so I was familiar with the route – CYRO -> CYGK -> CXBR -> CYRO.

When I arrived, I had to brief with a different instructor (on any other flight, no problem, but on my qualifying cross country, I was getting nervous). So, I get the plane ready, open my flight plan and I’m off to Kingston. At each airport, I had to turn off the plane and get stamped by dispatch.Leaving Kingston, I had a pretty strong headwind so I had to gun it as fast as I could.

Nobody was on dispatch answering the radio at Brockville. I had to park the plane and run around the airfield with time ticking to bring the plane back, not only before my booking expired and before my flight plan was due. After finding no one to stamp my book, I texted my primary instructor who just said to take a selfie. So of course, like any self-respecting millennial, I did. But I was late at this point and my primary said, “Get back in the plane!”

I climbed back in to get back to Ottawa airspace. At 6,000 feet heading into Ottawa Terminal airspace, I’m on the radio giving my intentions when a passenger side latc comes undone, flinging open the window. I continue communicating with terminal, while reaching over to close the window. I succeeded once, but the window opened two more times on my approach to CYRO. I decided to prop it open with an old map, which, of course, went flying!

As I descended, the window managed to stay closed, but I’m nervous it’s going to pop open the moment I turn final for runway 27 at CYRO. Thankfully, it doesn’t and I make it down. Not only did I survive my trip but I was greeted by my brother and mom with a bottle of champagne. What an incredible way to complete my PPL training.

I am so appreciative of everyone at Rockcliffe for their support, humour and optimism throughout my licensing. I was able to train there twice a day, every day, over the course of a couple months in 2016. In that time, not only did I gain a greater appreciation for the family I found there, but also for my own – especially for my Mom, who motivated and financed me. I also discovered how adventurous and brave pilots must be to fly.

Government Award
Emily Crombez, Captain I  WestJet Airlines

Crombez was the first female to crew a 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.

Crombez then flew as a bush pilot in Northeastern Ontario, which included flying the iconic de Havilland Beaver. She was then hired by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as a Twin Otter captain, particapting aerial rabies vaccinations and polar bear surveys. Crombez is currently flying a Boeing 737 for WestJet Airlines.

Pioneer Award
Major Micky Colton, Retired I Royal    Canadian Air Force

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 Trenton, 429 Winnipeg, 435 Edmonton, 424 Trenton and 426 Trenton.

Colton also served as an Air Transport Operations Duty Officer, Wing Flight Safety Officer and C130 Standards and Evaluation Officer. Colton retired from the regular force in October 2011, joining its reserves the next day. In May 2018, she retired as a Reservist Duty Operations Officer for 424 Squadron in Trenton.


Flight Operation Award
Julie Beverstein, Assistant Chief Pilot I Porter Airlines

Beverstein began taking flying lessons at Billy Bishop Airport around 20 years ago, while pursuing a BSc at the University of Toronto.

She then attended Seneca College to complete initial flight training. Beverstein was a flight instructor for five years before working for Air Georgian. She joined Porter Airlines in 2009 and now serves as a line pilot and training captain. She also leads pilot recruitment initiatives at Porter.

Business Award
Julie Mailhot, Chief Operating Officer I  Air Georgian

Mailhot started with Air Canada in 1987 as a Customer Service Agent and became the company’s first female flight dispatcher. She then served as the division’s chief of operations, managing up to 80 flight dispatchers. Mailhot, who received the Art of Excellence Award from Air Canada, currently serves as COO at Air Canada Express/Air Georgian. She is also president of the Dreams Take Flight Toronto Chapter, which she has been involved in for 21 years.

Education Award
Dr. Alexandra Kindrat, Research Scientist

Kindrat is a Montreal-based educator and research scientist who worked on a visual depth perception program with NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, including science for the International Space Station.

A private pilot, Kindrat has been a member of the teaching faculty at NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholar Program. She has also has served as co-chair of the International Astronautical Congress in the Human Space Endeavours Virtual Forum. She served as an educational consultant for the Canadian Space Agency’s advisory board focused on Canada’s future in space.

Engineering Award
Niloofar Moradi, Turbine Design I  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. She later joined Pratt & Whitney Canada as an aerodynamicist focused on turbines.

In 2016, working at P&WC, Moradi earned her Master’s degree from École de Technologie Supérieure. She currently works in P&WC’s Turbine Mechanical Design department, designing and integrating turbine components. She received the 2018 Concordia Young Alumni Award and was a 2018 recipient in Wings magazine’s Top 20 Under 40 program.


Stories continue below