Manitoba

Future pilots set sights sky-high at Girls in Aviation Day

Teara Fraser still remembers the first time she got in the cockpit of a plane and took off flying. And on Saturday, the founder of Iskwew Air helped inspire the next generation of women pilots in Manitoba at the fifth annual Girls in Aviation Day.

Organizer says event helps fill gaps in representation of women in aviation

Girls ranging from eight to 17 years old were invited to explore aircraft and tour nine different career stations at the fifth annual Girls in Aviation Day at 17 Wing in Winnipeg on Saturday. (CBC)

Teara Fraser still remembers the first time she got in the cockpit of a plane and took off flying.

"At 30 years old, I was like, 'Wow, this is the coolest thing I have ever seen,'" said the founder of Iskwew Air, Canada's first Indigenous woman-owned airline.

And on Saturday, Fraser hoped to inspire the next generation of women pilots in Manitoba by sharing her story at the fifth annual Girls in Aviation Day.

She was the keynote speaker at the Women in Aviation International event at 17 Wing in Winnipeg, a military base, where she talked about her own career journey, the opportunities for jobs in aviation and aerospace and what it's like to fly a plane. About 200 girls attended the event. 

"It's such an incredible experience to watch their wonder and their curiosity and their excitement," Fraser said.

Fraser founded Iskwew Air — which is a Cree word for woman — this year and said she also shared one of her favourite mantras with the girls at the event.

"Dream it, design it, do it," she said. "It's quite an incredible thing to be in an industry where there are very few women and [then] naming an airline that is championing and lifting women."

More women pilots needed

For 14-year-old Shannon Lambert, getting to look inside aircraft, like the helicopters and Dash 8 planes at the event, helped her imagine herself flying them one day.

"I think maybe I would become a pilot," said Lambert, who came to the event from Moose Lake, Man., a small community about 730 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. "I think it's important for girls. I think more girls should start becoming pilots."

Lt. Becky Major of 17 Wing Winnipeg said the event is a unique opportunity for girls to get hands-on experience with aircraft.

Shannon Lambert, 14, said getting to walk around inside the planes and helicopters at the event helped her imagine herself flying them one day. (CBC)

"They can envision what it would be like to be a pilot one day, or to see what it's like to work on an engine," said Major. "As a woman in the military, it's really nice to be able to display what we do and just show them some inspiration."

Airline pilot Kristin Long said events like the one on Saturday help fill a gap in the representation of women in the aircraft and aerospace industries.

"Too often, boys look at the pilots and engineers and the air traffic controllers that they see on TV and in the movies and out in their [travels], and girls don't often get a chance to see women in these roles," said Long, who is also the president of the Winnipeg chapter of Women in Aviation International.

"I hope that after today, girls see that there are lots of opportunities for women to have successful careers in aviation and aerospace roles."

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