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  • Writer's pictureMartin Zeilig

Girls in Aviation at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada

Moments after Jillian and Meagan emerged from the narrow pilot and co-pilot seats in the fuselage of a CF-101 Voodoo, they were trying on gear at a nearby RCAF display at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada.

The two 12-year-old grade seven students at École Charleswood School were among 140 girls, ages eight-17, at the Girls in Aviation (GIA) day on September 24. The girls were accompanied by their parents or other chaperons.

“I don’t know if I want to be a pilot,” Jillian, whose mother was with the two girls, said to a reporter.

“But, the RCAF display is really cool.”

The goal of GIA Day is to expose girls in our community to careers in aviation and aerospace, as well as RCAF careers in areas that have been typically male dominated to let them know that with diversity and equity these careers are available to them as to men, noted Kristin Long, a pilot at WestJet Airlines and captain on the Boeing 737.

Ms. Long is president of the Northern sphere of Women in Aviation and committee chair of Girls in Aviation.

“The girls were chosen through communication and social media and Girl Guides groups,” Ms. Long, who’s also an Honorary Colonel at the Canadian Forces School of Survival and Aeromedical Training, said during an interview during a break in activities at the museum.

“Anyone could have registered.”

She added that the full day event included arts and crafts in the morning, aviation themed stations, and other activities on the upper level of the museum.

“When the program begins the girls are divided into groups and travel to each of our stations,” Ms. Long explained.

“The careers we have today are pilot, aircraft maintenance engineer, aerospace engineer, flight attendant, airport emergency responder, aeromedical attendant (Medivac), and CAF careers.”

New this year to the day was “the drop in event” with trades and flight schools and other educational institutes in the area, she said.

“We do have a number of girls who have come back three or four times. “They love the event so much.”

Major Mylene Lavallee, who works at Barker College as an Air Operations Officer, was the military liaison to the civilian planning committee for GIA.

“We have a booth focused on the RCAF women in different trades,” she said.

“They’re talking and interacting with the young girls. We’re showing them what we do. They can be so many different trades, not only pilots and technicians. We have different uniforms, boots, rucksack, cool gear for them to try on today to see what it’s like, and personnel to answer questions for them. The recruiting centre is here too.”

Meanwhile, Jillian and Meagan seemed to be enjoying themselves.

“It’s really fun,” Jillian said.

“It’s way more interesting than I thought it would be.”

Added Meagan: “I thought it was really interesting to be able to go inside all the planes and the firetruck (parked on the museum’s outdoor tarmac). It’s cool to be here. I’d consider a career in aviation. I’d like to be a flight attendant.”

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