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Women in aviation: Northern perspective

Hard work, luck and a guiding hand or two along the way. It’s a tried and true recipe for successful career development and it’s precisely how Tracy Medve has risen to prominence in the Canadian aviation business.


May 6, 2011
By Stacy Bradshaw


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Hard work, luck and a guiding hand or two along the way. It’s a tried and true recipe for successful career development and it’s precisely how Tracy Medve has risen to prominence in the Canadian aviation business. The president of Canadian North in Yellowknife, N.W.T., is one of the most respected executives in the industry. Since 1985, she has held prominent roles in airline management with Norcanair, Time Air, Canadian Partner and Canadian Regional Airlines. Medve spoke with Wings about her passion for aviation, her love of the north, and her “must-have” travel tools.

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“The success of any woman in any industry is based on a common theme: hard work, persistence, collaboration.” Photo: Canadian North


 


Q| You recently were named Honorary Life Member with the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC), the first woman to do so. How important is this achievement to you?

A| The Honorary Life Membership from ATAC is a satisfying recognition of my years of experience and service to the airline industry. The fact I am the first woman in Canada to be the recipient of an Honorary Life Membership since the awards were first established in 1976 speaks to the opportunities which lie ahead in this exciting industry for women.

Q| What are the benefits/strengths of being a woman in such a male-dominated industry?

A| I’m not sure there are any benefits/strengths or advantages in being a woman over a man in this industry. We’re all just people trying to do a job. The success of any woman in any industry is based on a common theme: hard work, persistence, collaboration and not making a big deal of the fact that you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Q| How did you choose a career in aviation?

A| My aviation career began somewhat as an accident. My father was a private pilot and used to take us flying almost every Sunday around Prince Albert, Sask. I also remember the wonder of my first ride in a “big” airplane – a Douglas DC-3. So, there was always an undercurrent of aviation in my world growing up. However, the real breakthrough came after I had graduated from law school in the early 1980s and had completed my articles in Yellowknife. I found myself working as in-house counsel for the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation. I was lucky to have the job because the economic picture at the time was horrendous and jobs, particularly for lawyers, were very hard to come by. However, I realized at that point the law was not going to be my career choice. I picked up the phone one day, called the owner and president of Norcanair in Saskatoon and begged for a job. As a result of that I found myself working in a fascinating industry with no end of interesting challenges, and I was hooked.

Q| Three of your main goals when taking over at Canadian North were maximizing cargo capacity of scheduled flights; enhancing community service; and building charter services to the oil sands projects. Are you attaining your goals?

A| We have had considerable success in all these areas. Since I came to the airline in 2007 our fleet has grown from seven to 14 aircraft. We have recently introduced the 737-300 as part of our fleet modernization program and expect a second 737-300 later this year, bringing our total fleet size to 15. Our community air service has expanded from zero to 11 communities in the Kitikmeot and Qikiqtani regions of Nunavut. And we are the largest provider of contracted charter services to the oil sands in Canada.

Q| Obviously you have a unique passion for the North, having spent your entire career there. What drew you to that part of the country?

A| My first experience living in the North came when I articled in Yellowknife beginning in 1983. The city was quite different than now but very exciting and, at the time, seemingly very remote. I soon discovered that there was another whole north beyond Yellowknife – and I have now had a most unique opportunity to visit most of the smaller communities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut . . . I love the North. People are friendly and willing to chat and have/take the time to visit.

Q| You’re on the road a significant part of the year. What are your “must-have” things when travelling?

A| In the winter, a good coat, good boots and a warm pair of mitts! And, unfortunately, my BlackBerry.