Women Aviators in Canada

WOMEN AVIATION PIONEERS OF CANADA

In the early 1900’s flying was the ultimate daredevil act and there were some women already falling in love with the idea of being up in the air.

Eileen Vollick – Just 19 when she earned her wings and the right to call herself a true Canadian pioneer, trailblazing the airways for thousands of women who came after her. Eileen Vollick, Canada’s first licensed woman pilot, was born in Wiarton, Ontario. First though, the 18-year-old had an obstacle to overcome…read more 

Lorna_deBlicquy – 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! …read more

Edith Denny – the daughter of Goodyear’s President logged many hours at the controls of the first three Goodyear Blimps. She held the record number of hours flown by a woman in Blimps for many years and planned to get her Lighter-than-Air Licence…read more

Phyllis Penney-Gaul – was Newfoundland’s first female pilot. She was born in St. John’s, May 29, 1925. By the time the family had moved to historic Harbour Grace in 1931, the dawn of aviation had arrived…read more

Elsie MacGill –  was the first woman AME in Canada. Engineering was a male vocation, Elsie MacGill opened many doors and opportunities for women in this area of aviation in the years to come…read more

Felicity 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…read more

Vi Milstead – Renowned for her courage and determination.  In 1943 at the age of 24, she joined the British Air Transport Auxiliary and flew new fighter planes from factories to military bases across England and Allied Europe. She piloted 47 different types of aircraft, including  Spitfires, Typhoons and Mosquitos…read more

Marion Orr – Fascinated with planes and flying at a very early age, she read everything and anything on aviation.  She spent hours on the proof of the house watching for planes.  A two-seater swing in the garden became her “flying Machine”. Marion left home at the age of 15, her education barely completed to Grade 8.  She wanted to fly so badly, it became an obsession with her.  She earned $10 a week in a factory, went without food and the necessities of life to scrape together the six dollars an hour to take flying lessons.  Her first lesson was on April 22, 1939…read more

Daphne Paterson – was one of our earliest Pioneer women pilots. She obtained her Pilot’s Licence in 1929, one year after the first women pilot in Canada, Eileen Vollick…read more

Maryse Carmichael – A captain with the Canadian Air Force, Maryse had the job of VIP pilot flying the Prime Minister or the Governor General of Canada. In 2000 she became the first female pilot to fly with the Canadian Force’s national aerobatic team, the Snowbirds and went on to become the Commander of the Snowbird team. She has been the first Snowbird Team Leader to have her duty extended beyond the standard two year period.

Rosella Marie Bjornson – Born Lethbridge, Alberta July 13, 1947. As a child she dreamed of being a pilot. At 17 she took her first lesson and completed her Private Pilot’s License in just two months! She accumulated flying hours while she did her studies at the University of Calgary and established the first group of Girl Guide Air Rangers in Calgary.  In 1973 she was hired as a First Officer with the Canadian airlines Transair. She was the first woman to be hired as a First officer in North America on scheduled jet equipment and the first woman to be hired by a commercial airline in Canada. She was also the first woman to be a member of the Canadian Air Line Pilots Association. During her second pregnancy in 1984 regulations were changed to allow a pilot who is pregnant to fly.

In 1990 she became the first woman to be promoted to Captain with a major Canadian air carrier. Throughout her career, she has made valuable and ongoing contributions to Canadian youth by participating in school career day. In 1990 she was featured in a poster campaign by the Alberta Government, Dream/Dare/Do”, to encourage young people to set goals and strive to achieve them. She is a member of the Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.

Deanna Brasseur – was one of the first three Canadian women in the military to earn her “wings”. Brasseur holds the distinction of being one of the first two female CF-18 fighter pilots in the world. Later, Major Brasseur became Canada’s first female aircraft accident investigator. When Major Brasseur retired in 1994 she had flown about 2,500 hours in jet airplanes.

Molly Reilly  – Born Lindsay, Ontario February 25, 1922.  In 1939. Molly tried to sign up with the Royal Canadian Air Force, but they were not accepting women until 1941 when the Women’s’ Division was founded.  She was one of the first recruits and she worked in the photographic area to get to fly.  She learned to fly after the war and in 1959 became a full time charter pilot where she was the first woman in Canada be a captain.  She became the first woman to be a corporate pilot in Canada when she was Chief Pilot for Canadian Utilities Company. She is a member of the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.

Margaret Rutledge née Fane  – Born Edmonton, Alberta April 3, 1914. Died December 2, 2004. As a child she always had her eyes scanning for aeroplanes. She was a female aviation pioneer who earned her pilots license in 1933 and her commercial pilot license in 1935. She organized the women pilots as the Vancouver Seven. At first the group was not allowed to participate in air shows but these determined pioneer women were soon showing audiences their skills. While working as a dispatcher for Bridge River and Caribou Airways she was often required to co-pilot flights making her the only woman commercial pilot in British Columbia.  When World War ll broke out the women attempted to join the Air Force as pilots or instructors but were only offered positions as cooks! Instead the women used their talents to raise money for training equipment and established their own flying school. In later years Margaret moved into administration at Canadian Pacific Airways where she worked for over 20 years.

In 1956 she married Kieth Rutledge. Margaret Fane Rutledge was inducted the British Columbia Aviation Hall of Fame. Source: Margaret Fane Rutledge…by Tom Hawthorn. Globe and Mail January 5, 2005.

Judy Cameron  – graduated Selkirk College’s aviation program in June 1975, becoming the first women in Canada to receive a certification in aviation technology. She also obtained commercial and multi-instrument ratings at the same time. Judy worked as a bush pilot for several companies, in order to gain the skills to reach her main goal; flying for the airline. Judy was the first woman pilot hired by Air Canada in 1978 and is currently a 777 Captain flying the Pacific routes to Asia. At the start of her career with Canada’s largest airline, Judy had to endure criticism and remarks from fellow pilots and passengers who doubted her capabilities. Her persistence paid off, and she proved that she was capable of performing to the standards set by male pilots.

Dorothy Rungeling – was one of Canada’s most illustrious women pilots in the early fifties and opened many doors for women in aviation, particularly in the world of Air Racing…read more

Adele Fogle –  learned as a young child that chasing rainbows can cash out in spiritual gold…read more

Shirley Allen – Inside and outside the Ninety-Nines, Shirley has been an active force in supporting aviation and has reached to promote interest, learning, enjoyment and participation…read more

 Margo McCutcheon – was instrumental in turning the Canadian Ninety-Nines into Spies in the Sky…read more

Gertrude de le Vergne – took her flying lessons at the Calgary Aero Club, and became Alberta’s first licensed female pilot on Dec 4, 1928. Gertrude was encouraged to perform aerobatics by an instructor, but she gave up flying when she could not afford flying time to earn her commercial licence.

Roberta Bondar – A pilot when she was selected as an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency, Roberta became famous across Canada in 1992, when she became the first Canadian women to fly in space, aboard a NASA space shuttle. Her eight days in space inspired a keen interest in photographing Canada’s rugged terrain, and this interest led to a museum exhibit and a book entitled Passionate Vision.

Leave a Reply