Lorna won the Governor General’s Award in 1993. She wears it proudly for this picture. Also Lorna wears her Amelia Scholarship medallion.
Lorna deBlicquy, was born in Blyth, Ont., and decided she wanted to learn to fly at the age of 14. She soloed at 15 in a J-3 Cub at the Atlas Aviation Flying School in Ottawa. Lorna also took up skydiving and at the age of 16 and was the first female in Canada to make a parachute jump! And the youngest!
The original private flying licence test was: five circuits (with a ground observer) landing within a car length. Fifty feet, no power, no brakes. Climb to 3,000 feet, a three-turn spin to the left and to the right, then another spot landing. The examiner was in a car “safely” watching from the ground.
Lorna received her Private Pilot Licence in 1948 from Atlas Aviation and her Commercial Licence in 1953, the same year she graduated with a B.A. from Carleton University.
Following her marriage to Tony Nichols, a geologist, they moved to Thompson in northern Manitoba. There she was hired to fly a Waco Standard five-place biplane for Taylor Airways, hauling fish, supplies and flying natives into the reserves (temperatures often hit -60 F). Lorna and Tony owned an Aeronca Super Chief on floats. In 1956, they moved again to Sudbury, Ont., where Lorna obtained her Instructor’s Rating. She taught ab initio on floats and skis. Six years of instructing part time was a real challenge, as she was also teaching full time at the high school in Sudbury.
In 1962 Lorna was on her own again, barnstorming her way through the backwoods of Quebec in an Aeronca Champ. Then it was back to instructing at Carp and Kingston in Ontario, Then a whirlwind relationship with Dick DeBlicquy, a well-known Canadian pilot who flew for Weldy Phipps in the Arctic. They met and married later that year. Lorna kept busy teaching at the Montreal and Ottawa Flying Clubs.
Her husband’s job took them to New Zealand in the 1960s where they lived for periods of time. Lorna instructed at the Wellington and Marlborough Aero Clubs in New Zealand, she also flew sightseeing tours out of small strips, over mountainous terrain and across Cook Strait, Lorna acquired a glider licence while Dick was flying helicopters for crop spraying in New Zealand.
Back in Ottawa in 1966 Lorna took time out to have a baby girl and get an endorsement to teach instrument flying. She instructed part-time at Georgian Bay Airways. Dick was managing a Helicopter Base in Timmins, Pegasus Airlifts. The following summer Lorna flew the family in an Apache to Resolute Bay on Cornwallis Island near the Magnetic North Pole.
She completed her senior Commercial Licence to fly the de Havilland Beaver and the Apache to get to scientific exploration camps on the tundra, she was checked out on Twin Otters in the Canadian Arctic out of Resolute Bay, serving Inuit settlements. They were operating out of a new strip at Strathcona Sound for Texas Gulf. Furthest north was Tanguary Fiord where the Defence Research Camp was located. The next few years Lorna flew Twin Otters with her husband.
In the summer of 1969 she obtained a commercial helicopter ating in Ottawa on the Bell 47. They spent one more summer in the Arctic.
There were many hurdles when she was applying for aviation-related work. She wrote endless letters, going public with her case, in editorials, newspaper interviews, and radio talk shows. In 1977 Transport Canada finally broke with the “male only” tradition and hired her. Lorna became Canada’s first woman Civil Aviation Flight Inspector, commuting to Toronto every week from her home in Ottawa. After two years, she worked freelance in various departments of Transport Canada under contract throughout Eastern Ontario.
In 1985 Lorna added a DC-3 endorsement to her qualifications, flying air freight from Ottawa to Syracuse, N.Y., for Bradley First Air. In 1986 the deBlicquy’s were in Ethiopia to fly Twin Otters on a famine relief project.
Lorna was an Honorary Life Member of the 99s and the Ottawa Flying Club.
She was a member of The Whirly Girls, COPA and on several advisory committees, including the National Aviation Museum, Algonquin College, and the Air Transport Association of Canada.
Her many Aviation related awards include:
1996 – International Women in Aviation Conference – Pioneer Hall of Fame
1995 – Governor General – The Order of Canada
1994 – Lieutenant Governor of Ontario’s Award – The Order of Ontario
1993 – FAI-Diplome – P. Tissandier
1993 – Trans-Canada – The McKee Trophy – Canadian Aeronautics/Space Inst.
1993 – The Ninety Nines International – Award of Merit
1991 – National Museum/Science/Technology – Outstanding Contribution
1970 – The Ninety-Nines International – Amelia Earhart Scholarship
Lorna flew in several competitive Air Races in the 1950s and 1970s (Powder Puffs and Angel Derbies) and has served in various chapter and section offices. She has been and still is a dynamic member of the Canadian 99s Eastern Ontario Chapter. She was a talented writer and very much in demand as a key note speaker.
Lorna deBlicquy was a trailblazer, one of Canada’s best known women pilots and one of the most experienced. She overcame many barriers and was tireless in her efforts to advance the cause for women in Canadian aviation. After a long and colourful career, Lorna retired from full time flying in October, 1999.
Lorna died peacefully at age 77 on Saturday March 21, 2009.
All photos are courtesy of The Lorna deBlicquy Collection