When we think of female pilots, most of us go to the famed aviator Amelia Earhart — the 16th woman in history to be issued a pilot’s license and the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
In 1937, she mysteriously disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the globe.
She paved the way for women in flight.
Yet, to this day men still dominate the skies.
In fact, only six per cent of commercial pilots are female. While the percentage of female doctors, lawyers and CEOs has skyrocketed, women involved in aviation and aerospace remain few and far between.
Aldergrove resident Kirsten Brazier, who also happens to be a professional pilot with fixed wing planes and helicopters for the past 20 years, is hoping to change all that.
Brazier is bringing The Sky’s No Limit – Girls Fly Too, a free event in celebration of women in aviation to the Langley Regional Airport on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. both days.
Women and girls of all ages who have never flown in a small aircraft will enjoy free flights, meet female Coast Guard pilots, RCMP helicopter pilot, female Air Force and other outstanding women in aviation. Visitors to the event can also go into the traffic control tower and get under the hood and work on the gears to see how these mighty machines work.
The goal, said Brazier, is to encourage more females to think about working in a lucrative industry that has traditionally been dominated by men.
“Studies show that one of the major barriers to more women getting involved in aviation and aerospace is the perception that these industries are reserved for men. Because of this, they don’t even consider it,” Brazier said. “We want to change that. We want girls and women to seriously think about careers as pilots, air traffic controllers, mechanics, or aeronautical engineers.”
Deciding to have a career in aviation has been very lucrative and adventurous for Brazier.
Not only will she soon be one of the only female pilots to carry four different airline licenses, she has flown as a bush pilot, done fire patrol, flown beavers and otters, helicopters, flown in the Arctic and in the Caribbean where she flew skydivers.
“This career has led me into some wonderful places and that’s why I’m so passionate about promoting more women to be a part of this,” she said.
Brazier, with help from a strong team of volunteer organizers including the Langley City mayor’s wife Jean Schaffer, is hoping to bring more than 5,000 people, males and females to the two-day event.
The highlight of the day is to take hundreds of girls and women on a flight (fixed wing or helicopter) for their first time, she said.
Already, 600 females have registered so the spots are filling fast, she noted.
They can fly 1,500 females over the two days.
She brought the Girls Fly Too event first to Yellowknife two years ago where it was a huge success and won five international awards, and has also been listed as the single largest event of its kind for Women Of Aviation World Wide Week.
She plans to bring that same success and awards to Langley Regional Airport.
Langley actually is a perfect fit for such an event.
“Langley Township has a thriving aviation industry and Langley Regional Airport is at the heart of that success,” pointed out Township mayor Jack Froese who will emcee the event.
In fact, employment in aviation, including helicopters, and the aerospace industry is big business in Langley and there is plenty of opportunity for good paying jobs in maintenance and flight.
“Our airport is a hub for transportation, employment and education and there is a lot to inspire the girls and women who participate in the Sky’s No Limit. Maybe one day they will be working here themselves.”
University of the Fraser Valley is one of the gold sponsors of Girls Fly 2, where they will be promoting their structures program to females. YVR is also a gold sponsor.
“There is shortage of skilled technical people in aviation. Yet, no one has tapped into 50 per cent of the population of women who have never been part of the equation,” she said. In fact, less than two per cent of mechanical and maintenance crews at places like Vancouver Airport are female.
Brazier doesn’t just want to stop at this amazing event, which will be the first annual. She hopes to mentor UFV female students as well as work with high schools.
Girls and women who want to register to fly just have to go to girlsfly2.ca. For more info, visit the Facebook page SkysNoLimitGirlsFlyToo. The event will take place on the runway and hangars on the north side (off 56 Ave.). A runway is being shut down for parking as well.
For those who may fear flying, an opportunity to be in the front seat of a plane or helicopter, is the best way to overcome that anxiety and fall in love with flying, said Brazier. She highly recommends taking this opportunity.