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Vi Milstead

Born in Toronto, Ontario in October 1919, Vi learned to fly at the old Barker Field in Toronto (named after Canada’s most decorated WWI hero, Lt. Col. William Barker)

Vi passed her Private Pilot’s Flight Test, #3339 in December, 1939, her Commercial Licence in April, 1940 and earned her Instructor’s Rating at Trenton, Ontario in July, 1941.

Vi instructed at Barker Field until civilian flying ceased in Canada, due to wartime gas rationing in November, 1942.

She applied to BOAC in Montreal for service in the British Air Transport Auxiliary. At that time she had approximately 1,000 flying hours and easily passed her check out in the Harvard AT-6, going overseas in 1943 to ferry aircraft between manufacturers, maintenance facilities and Armed Forces’ units throughout Britain.

After preliminary training at ATA Headquarters, White Waltham Airfield in 1944, Vi was based at Cosford. She ferried 27 different types of single engine aircraft and 17 different types of advanced twin-engine aircraft, as a First Officer (equivalent to a Captain’s rank in the military) Most fondly remembered, the Spitfire and the deHavilland Mosquito.

When the war came to an end in May 1945, the Cosford base closed. Vi was transferred back to White Waltham Airfield and ferried similar aircraft between Britain and Europe till the end of June, 1945.

She returned to civilian instructing in Canada with Leavens Brothers Air Services at Barker Field in 1946. Vi married Arnold Warren in 1947 and they moved north to Sudbury to fly for Nickel Belt Airways. Vi taught flying on floats during the summer and skis during the winter. She flew the Fairchild Husky, interspersed with charter and bush flying in the north, was featured as one of Canada’s first female bush pilots and written up in several national aviation publications.

Followed a busy two years (1950-1952) The Warrens re-established the Windsor Flying Club. They then spent two years in Indonesia. Arnold was recruited by I.C.A.O. to be the CFI at the Indonesian Aviation Academy in Djakarta, Java. Both were back in Canada by the end of 1954, employed in the aviation industry in Toronto.

They continued to fly for recreation, owning a PA-12 then a Mooney, which they used to fly to their home in the picturesque Magdallen Islands in Quebec. They both retired in 1973. Vi was presented with an Amelia Earhart Medallion by the First Canadian Chapter of the 99s. In September, 1995, she was honoured by the Rusty Blakey Heritage Group at a Banquet in Sudbury, Ontario. There was a formal dedication of a granite plaque, with a nostalgic fly-by of seaplanes over the shore of Ramsey Lake, where bush flying was a way of life in the 40’s and early 50’s.

The Warrens, due to Arnold’s frail health, scaled down their living in the Nineties, from a large two-storey Victorian home in Colborne, to a smaller, custom built log house on the shores of Lake Ontario. Vi now lives alone, with an adopted black Labrador dog called Harriet and enjoys her gardening. She is a very modest lady, but enjoys talking about her experiences and wartime flying. (She was featured a year ago in a television documentary “A Time for Courage”) and was a special guest at the 99s East Canada Section’s 50th Anniversary Banquet on November, 18th, 2000 when “interviewed” by June Callwood, a well-known Toronto Journalist/Author and one of Vi’s early students.


“OTTAWA – Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, announced July 29, 2004 79 new appointments to the Order of Canada, including three promotions within the Order. The new appointees include two Companions (C.C.), 22 Officers (O.C.) and 55 Members (C.M.). These appointments are in effect as of May, 13, 2004. Recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.

Vi Milstead Warren, C.M. Colborne, Ontario, Member of the Order of Canada.  “Renowned for her courage and determination, Vi Warren has been a role model and an inspiration to generations of pilots. 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, earning her the respect and admiration of her Royal Air Force peers. At war’s end, she resumed her career as a flight instructor and pilot in Ontario and later became one of Canada’s first women bush pilots.”