FELICITY (BENNETT) McKENDRY was in love with planes and aviation at an early age. She was raised on a farm in Eastern Ontario – miles from an Airport. Like many other would be young aviators, she built balsa wood model aircraft and was fascinated watching the Harvards fly aerobatics over the farm.
However, Felicity says that the greatest influence in her love affair with flying, was a promotional program initiated by Quaker Oats in Peterborough, Ontario, in the early 40’s. Everyone knows how good oatmeal is and apparently it was also good for budding Canadian pilots. Children would send 2 Quaker Oats box tops and 15 cents in return for a “How to Fly” kit. (Flight Schools, take note!) The kit contained a cardboard mock-up of a very real looking instrument panel with dials that could be manually set on the flight and engine instruments, a control column, throttle and rudder pedals, plus a well-illustrated booklet titled “How to Fly”
After school hours, 15 minute lessons would be given on the radio and the “student” pilot would follow through with the booklet in the kit in his/her pretend aeroplane.
(Interestingly enough, after they had been married for some time, Felicity and Spence McKendry realized that they both had sent for one of these kits when they were children, growing up several miles apart).
These sessions must have been effective as many made aviation their career in life from this early learning experience!
Felicity read everything she could on aviation in those years, including a series of ground school subjects in the magazine Mechanics Illustrated, which she studied diligently. Even while driving the tractor on the farm, she practiced keeping straight for “take-offs” and “landings.”
After graduating from University, she taught at the Ontario School for the Deaf, west of Kingston.
She started flying lessons in December 1950 at the Kingston Flying Club and earned her Private Pilot Licence in September, 1951 in a Fleet Canuck.
In 1952, she represented the Club in the Webster Trophy Competition, placing first, then went on to the finals in Ottawa, coming first in the flying segment and third overall.
She decided that flying was what she really wanted to do and in 1953 resigned from her teaching job and applied herself completely to upgrading her Licence to become one of the first few female instructors in Canada. Felicity was qualified to teach on wheels, skis and floats.
She married Spence McKendry – a pilot and air traffic controller in 1955. In 1956 Spence was posted to Ottawa and Felicity was hired by Bradley Air Services in Carp, Ontario. She was also one of the first woman Chief Flying Instructors in Canada.
Felicity flew enough to keep current when their son and daughter arrived. After they were in school she instructed part-time with Margaret Carson at Ottawa Aero Services for a year before getting her Class I Instructor’s Rating and DFTE status at the Rockville Flying Club, where she taught for 12 years. At the end of this time, she was awarded an Honourary Membership in the Flying Club. As a Designated Flight Test Examiner, she also had the privilege and pleasure of conducting private pilot flight tests for Astronauts, Marc Garneau and Steve McLean, as part of their space training program.
The McKendry’s moved back to Kingston in 1986 on retirement.
Left, Felicity with a C-172 (C-GVWT) at the Rockcliffe Flying Club, DFTE, 1984
Felicity has been a dedicated Ninety-Nine for 50 years! Felicity joined the First Canadian Section, 99s in 1952. She has served in many capacities from its inception – Section Education Chairman, Amelia Earhart Scholarship Chairman, Trustee for the Canadian Award in Aviation for 6 years and is still representing Section for Intl. Forest of Friendship applications. She has fulfilled almost every office in the Eastern Ontario Chapter in Ottawa, made presentations to many educational groups and has written endless newsletters and aviation articles over the years.
Competitive air racing was another of Felicity’s activities. In 1955 she flew with Dorothy Rungeling in the All Women’s Transcontinental Air Race and again in 1956.
In 1975 she flew in the Angel Derby with Jean Hemming. In 1982 she judged the Canadian General Shield Competition for the RCFCA.
In 1992, she voluntarily decided not to renew her flying licence. Her last log entry was to take her son and two grandchildren for a flight. When she retired, the aviation students missed her dedicated skill as a pilot and instructor, but Felicity continues to be very active in the 99s and many other charitable fund raising community events. It was entirely appropriate that her flying “alma mater” sponsored her induction in the International Forest of Friendship, Atchison, Kansas, a few years ago