Girls in Aviation Day 2017 encourages girls to seek new heights

News Article / October 24, 2017

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By Captain Bettina McCulloch-Drake

In 1784, a woman by the name of Marie Élisabeth Thible became the first woman to fly freely into the air when she boarded a hot air balloon in France. Since that time, girls and women have aspired to seek new heights in aviation- and space-related occupations.

On September 23, 2017, close to 300 people, including 150 girls from 8 to 16, descended on the Stevenson Campus of Red River College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to attend the 3rd annual Girls in Aviation Day. A Women in Aviation International event, hosted by the organization’s Winnipeg chapter, Northern Spirit, Girls in Aviation Day is aimed at promoting aviation to girls and young women who may not have previously considered careers in the industry.

This year, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) was well represented by 10 women from 17 Wing Winnipeg-based 402 “City of Winnipeg” Squadron, 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia’s 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia’s 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron, and the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Studies (CFSAS) in Winnipeg. Ranging in rank from aviator to major, the RCAF women engaged participants in interactive static displays and shared their experiences in RCAF occupations associated with aircraft command (pilot), air combat systems, aerospace engineering, aviation systems, avionics systems, and aircraft structures.

Event participants had the opportunity to explore the CT-142 Dash 8, which is used predominately to train air combat systems officers (ACSO) and airborne electronic sensor operators. Major Geneviève Dussault, an ACSO instructor with 402 Squadron, asked girls to imagine that they were searching for a lost pet using the equipment found in the aircraft. Even without flashing up any of the training modules in the Dash-8’s belly, just sitting in one of the seats in front of a screen was enough to get a picture of what it might be like to be an ACSO.

Closer to the cockpit of the Dash-8, Captain Alexandria Sullivan, a former CP-140 Aurora pilot newly arrived at CFSAS, Captain Jennifer Bass, visiting from 415 Squadron, and Captain Maxine Kapralik, an aerospace engineering officer with 402 Squadron, explained how aircrew and the maintenance teams work together to meet the needs of the RCAF and Canadian Armed Forces as a whole. Sergeant Eric Krievans and Corporal Kasmara Savard also represented 402 Squadron.

Nearby, on board the CC-130H Hercules, Aviator Lynn Williams, an aviation systems technician with 435 Squadron, and her squadron-mates, Master Corporal Amie MacDonald and Corporal Staci Foster, invited event participants to explore the workhorse of the RCAF. A flexible aircraft capable of carrying out a variety of missions including search and rescue, air-to-air refuelling, and tactical transport, the Hercules began serving Canada in 1960. Although many of the legacy H-models and all the E-models have been replaced by the J-model Hercules, 435 Squadron still flies the H-model. Airframe 305, retired from flight, now serves as a training platform for maintenance crews and a static display at local events.

Inside the hangar at Stevenson Campus, Corporal Katrina Currie, an aviation systems technician with 435 Squadron, spoke with girls curious about aircraft maintenance. “It was very exciting,” Corporal Currie said, “to actually see these girls excited about our careers.” Corporal Currie, a former member of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, told the girls that she did exactly the same job as the men in her occupation, and that there were no differences in her training or employment as an aviation systems technician.

Captain Bettina McCulloch-Drake is with 17 Wing Winnipeg Public Affairs.

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