The famous female pilot Amelia Earhart once said, “You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen its shadow from the sky”. Girls ages 10 and up had the chance to do exactly that when they were given the opportunity to fly an aircraft during the Durham Flight Centre’s third annual women’s aviation event, called Girls Take Flight, on March 12 at the Oshawa Airport.
Pilots from various airlines volunteered to fly the planes with the girls. In addition, several volunteers from the aviation industry came to discuss career opportunities for women, where women account for five per cent of airline pilots.
Young girls discovered they could do their first solo flight at 14, before they can drive a car. However, like most teens they probably need their parents to drive them to the airport, unless they’re like pilot Marilyn Daigle, who had her own sneaky way of getting there.
Daigle is a pilot, who came to volunteer at the event and has more than 10,000 hours of flying experience. She spent the last six years working for Porter airlines.
However, her journey to become a pilot wasn’t easy, and started off as a secret.
“I wanted to be a pilot, but my dad didn’t think women should be pilots. He sent me to university. I went, but I also became a pilot. I just had to do it behind his back,” says Daigle. She says she spent her whole childhood around planes but didn’t think becoming a pilot was a possibility for women.
“My dad was fixing airplanes and wanted to be a pilot but then he had us. Then one day a bush pilot told me I could be pilot and it stayed with me,” says Daigle. When Daigle told her father she became a pilot and showed him images of the places she had flown he didn’t believe her.
“Even though I was flying all over the north he still couldn’t believe it. I was supposed to take him for a flight, but he passed away six years ago and it never happened. It’s really too bad I never got to take him for a flight,” she says.
Two hundred women and girls registered for a 15-minute opportunity to steer a Cessna 172 with a volunteer pilot. The girls were suppose to take off by 10 a.m. but due to foggy weather conditions the flights had to be delayed for a few hours.
In the meantime hundreds of people, mostly women and young girls, took the opportunity to explore the inside of various aircrafts, meet pilots and test the aviation simulator.
Giselle Mcnamee volunteered at this year’s event. The year before she attended with her 16-year-old daughter Raquel who won a Ground School scholarship at the Durham Flight Centre.
Ground school costs $350 but a single one-hour flight with an instructor costs $178.
Mcnamee says the program has had a huge impact on her daughter’s self-confidence and helped set her apart from more traditional interests.
“She was never a sports person this has given her an identity and this is something very few people can claim,” she says.
Mcnamee says she has never been flown a plane and didn’t intend on getting into the one during the event, but says that she isn’t nervous about allowing her daughter to take flight.
“Surprisingly not, because of the self-confidence it’s given her and the self-confidence she has about it. She told me she would rather get a pilot’s licence than a driver’s licence.”