Pilot becomes first female Inuk captain for Air Inuit

Earlier this week, Melissa Haney flew into her hometown in a new-to-her Dash-8 aircraft, arriving to an unexpected crowd that was there to celebrate her accomplishment.

300 people gathered in Inukjuaq, Que., airport to surprise Melissa Haney

Melissa Haney was greeted by 300 people at the airport in her hometown in northern Quebec to celebrate her accomplishment. There was a homemade cake, gifts - and a lot of smiles. (Caroline Oweetaluktuk)

Air Inuit's first female Inuk captain's inspiration to become a pilot started when she was a flight attendant.

Melissa Haney sat in the jump seat beside the pilot one day, and that dream took flight.

She's now one of 14 Inuit pilots flying with the airline — but the only woman.

Earlier this week, the northern Quebec woman flew home in a Dash-8 aircraft, and was met by an unexpected crowd.

About 300 people gathered in the Inukjuaq, Que., airport to celebrate Haney's achievement.

About 300 people - both young and old - greeted Melissa Haney at the Inukjuaq, Que., airport. (Caroline Oweetaluktuk)

"I was super surprised," Haney said.

"I even cried a little bit when I came in, because I was really touched by the people who took time out of their schedule... and have this surprise."

Rhoda Kokkiapik organized the surprise reception, which included a cake and gifts.

She was one of many who was able to see Haney land the new-to-her Dash-8 in her hometown for the first time.

"Her aircraft landed flawlessly," Kokkiapik said in Inuktitut. 

Haney started her career with Air Inuit in 2001.

She says the best part of her job — from flight attendant to captain — is being able to see and talk to people from her region.

A homemade cake for Melissa Haney that says the community of Inukjuak, Que., is 'honored and proud' of her. (Caroline Oweetaluktuk)
Melissa Haney and family pose for a silly picture, fully equipped in their pilot attire. (Melissa Haney)

with files from Mike Salomonie