British Columbia·Photos

One flight at a time: Abbotsford, B.C. program aims to boost number of female pilots

Kirsten Brazier's The Sky's NO Limit – Girls Fly Too! has been offering free flights to girls and women of all ages who are first-time flyers since 2012.

Kirsten Brazier has been running The Sky's NO Limit – Girls Fly Too! since 2012

Canadian Forces Snowbirds Captain Sarah Dallaire, left, talks to a participant at the 2018 The Sky's No Limit, Girls Fly Too! in Abbotsford B.C. on Saturday March 10, 2018. (CBC)

Sky Simpson's been piloting a Hercules military transport aircraft for the last six years, but she still gets asked if she's really the captain.

"I really do get a kick out of the look of shock on some people's faces," Simpson said Saturday at an event at Abbotsford International Airport aimed at inspiring more women to pursue flying.

Hercurles aircraft pilot Sky Simpson says gender barriers are breaking down in the flight industry. "I say that it doesn't matter who you are or what you are as long as you are competent and confident to do your job." (CBC)

The annual event, called The Sky's NO Limit – Girls Fly Too!, provided hands-on experience with planes and helicopters..

Simpson said in her squadron of 60 pilots, she is the only trained Canadian female pilot.

Families attended the The Sky's No Limit, Girls Fly Too! to explore aircraft, get free flights and talk to women in aviation. (CBC)

The lack of gender parity in aviation is part of the reason Kristen Brazier launched the event in 2012.

"If you don't have someone in your network that is not an astronaut or a marine engineer, why would it it occur to you that you could do that?" she said.

"But if you did, you could say, 'Hey I could do that too."

Fewer than six per cent of professional pilots in the U.S. and Canada are female, Brazier said.

Often a first flight experience is the catalyst needed to inspire interest in aviation, aerospace, and other science, technology, engineering and math-based fields, organizers say. (CBC)
Captain Sarah Dallaire, 28, was inspired to become a pilot after going to an air show. She now flies with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds. 'Any big dream or goal seems so big and so untenable, but if you break it down and take that little step ... one day you will be where you want," she says. (CBC)
Participants at the 2018 The Sky's No Limit, Girls Fly Too! in Abbotsford B.C. talk to ground crews about pursuing jobs in the aviation industry. (CBC)