Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC) in Ontario will be holding its annual Girls Can Fly event on Saturday, May 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is a free educational event that promotes women in aviation and offers free flights for girls aged eight to 18 years.
Registration for flights filled up in two weeks, but a limited number of stand-by spots are available on the flight centre’s website.
“This is an excellent event for girls to learn more about the aviation industry,” said Bob Connors, general manager of WWFC. “This is our sixth year offering the event, which has been hugely successful. Girls and their families will have the opportunity to tour our state-of-the-art facility, meet women in the industry, learn more about aviation and go for a free flight.”
The event will also feature exhibitors from the industry who will have some interactive components. Exhibitors include:
Region of Waterloo International Airport;
University of Waterloo – Science & Geography Aviation programs;
Waterloo on the Grand Ninety-Nines;
Canadian Owners and Pilots Association;
Canadian Women in Aviation;
Hamilton Watch; and
Girls Can Fly also features guest speakers from the industry, including:
Anne Hoffman – Toronto Pearson Control Tower controller;
Siobhan O’Hanlon – First Officer with Sunwing Airlines; and
Contessa Bishop – Q400 Captain with Jazz Airlines.
“If visitors haven’t been able to sign up for a free flight, I’d still encourage them to come to the event,” said Connors. “It’s a great opportunity for girls and young women to learn and meet women in the industry. It’s truly an inspiring and energized day.”
The event was established to promote the aviation industry to girls and young women. The representation of women in the aviation industry has changed over the years, but there is still a long way to go. And now with the shortage of pilots it’s an even greater opportunity for young women to enter the industry.
The shortage of pilots is not just a Canadian issue. It’s something that is being talked about around the world. Airlines are working with flight schools and taking young pilots to mentor and groom for jobs. It is a practice that has been going on for years in Europe and is now becoming more common in Canada.
Pilots are not the only career in demand. Aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) are also seeing a shortage in recruits and looking for new ways to source staff.
The WWFC aviation program works cooperatively with industry partners to define and deliver training that meets the needs of modern airlines.
“Canadian airlines have stated they’ll be hiring about 1,000 commercial pilots in 2017, but only about 600 Canadians will be produced by Canadian flight schools,” said Connors. “The remainder are international students who train in Canada and return to their home country upon graduation.”
The low rate of women in the aviation industry also plays a factor.
“The ratio of women to men in the aviation industry remains low,” said Connors. “However, that can change with increased awareness and promotion of career opportunities to young women. There are many women pilots, AMEs and controllers who are very successful and well respected and there is huge potential for more.”
WWFC is involved in gender-equality initiatives to reach out to young women and highlight aviation career paths, such as pilots, air traffic controllers and maintenance professionals. WWFC hosts two events, Girls Can Fly and Aviation Fun Day, each year with a focus of introducing the aviation industry to youth and their families. Both events are hugely successful with a large attendance.