Girls Take Flight takes off at Oshawa Airport

Photo by Jackie Graves

Aspiring pilot Isla McGee can't wait until she's old enough to fly at next year's event.


Hundreds of young women and girls got the chance to fly on the weekend at an event targeted at getting more women to enter aviation careers.

Girls Take Flight offered information and activities centered around breaking the stigma that jobs in the industry are for men and boys. Their goal was to show young women and girls that careers in aerospace and aviation are available to them too.

Almost 800 guests attended, including more than 200 volunteers and 220 women and girls who took to the skies. This was the largest and most successful Girls Take Flight event founder Lesley Page has ever seen.

“Before this year’s event, I wasn’t convinced we were getting through to anyone,” said Page.  “But this year I had so many people come up to me to tell me how inspiring this event was.”

Page, a private pilot and main organizer of Girls Take Flight, wants girls to know with Canada’s pilot shortage, they are needed now more than ever.

“Six per cent of pilots are women, we feel that’s too low,” said Page. “We did some research that showed that most people believe that it’s primarily for boys and men.”

Anna Rusinowski is Girls Takes Flight’s media liaison. She says the event is important because it shows girls that careers in aviation are possible for them.

“Becoming a pilot, or even getting into the aviation industry can be a challenge,” said Rusinowski. “Here we have flight schools, the air cadets, the military and we have the speakers talking about their experience to help guide people.”

Girls Take Flight is hosted by the First Canadian 99s and the Durham Flight Centre. It primarily runs on donations provided by sponsors and exhibitors.

The Durham Flight Center was bustling with people and information booths at this year’s event. Guests had the opportunity to register for free plane rides, build model airplane wings, and even experience flying through digital flight simulation.

They also got to listen to a panel of guest speakers featuring women working in aviation and aerospace talk about their careers.

“It was fantastic, I was thrilled,” said Page.

Girls Take Flight also had its biggest outdoor aircraft display, including a Russian jet flown in from Ottawa, the L29 Delfin, and the CC-130J Hercules, a Canadian military tactical airlift.

Seneca and Georgian College, which offer aviation programs, were there. Jazz Aviation hires many of these graduates, while Porter Airlines has made a pledge to hire more female pilots over the next five years.

Page hopes to inspire young girls through experience and education, so they can enter the field of aerospace and aviation with confidence. She hopes with time the industry will shift to be more inclusive.

“The thing that I always wanted to take away from this event is that aviation and aerospace is an option for girls as a career,” said Page. “I want them to be inspired by the role models they saw this year.”