Kirsten Brazier, organizer of last weekend’s The Sky’s No Limit — Girls Fly Too event at Langley Regional Airport, isn’t putting too much weight into the sexist note that a male passenger left for the female captain of a Westjet flight last week.
But the seasoned female pilot of both planes and helicopter said it makes events like hers that much more important.
More than 5,000 girls and women — and men and boys, too — were at Langley Regional Airport on Saturday and Sunday to celebrate women in aviation and all the cool things about the flying business. Even with rain pouring down on Saturday, hundreds of females came to the airport to get a chance to fly in a helicopter or small plane.
With the mist and rain soaking the event on Saturday, Brazier had to stop the flights at 3 p.m.
“We had to tell several hundred girls and women we weren’t going to fly any more that day.
“It was devastating but we hoped they would come back on the standby list the next day,” she said.
They definitely did. The clouds parted and the sun came out for Sunday, and so did more than 5,000 people.
“It was honestly just amazing. We flew and flew all day. We had people sitting on the grass enjoying the day, we had people cycling on the runway. We had so many girls and women just ecstatic about their flight and about the experience. We had lots of boys too and I was making sure they got to sit in the cockpit and check out all the neat planes we had there. There were no sad faces,” she said.
There is no official tally yet, but at least 1,200 girls and women took to the skies on helicopters and small planes.
“Our pilots were amazing, they flew until everyone got their flight,” she said. Brazier expected her event to make history, as she predicts it was the largest female aviation event in North America.
“I have been inundated with messages and people were coming up to me just excited for the experience and many young girls interested in aviation now. It’s opened up doors for women in aviation for sure,” she said. And that was the goal.
The note left for Capt. Carey Smith Steacy of Surrey read: “The cockpit of an airline is no place for a woman. A woman being a mother is the most honour, not as ‘captain.’ Proverbs 31. Sorry not PC.”
The writer of the note, left on a napkin, said: “I wish WestJet could tell me a fair lady is at the helm so I can book another flight!”
Brazier wonders about the mental health of the man, but says it underscores the fact that there are so few female pilots that women in the profession do stand out.
“It gives attention to the absence of women in aviation,” she said.
And that was the whole point of her volunteering all these hours to bring the largest aviation event to Langley this weekend.
Her hope is that some girls and women who took a flight or met a Coast Guard or military pilot, or got under the hood of a helicopter, get the “flying bug.”
Only two per cent of aviation mechanics are female. Only six per cent of commercial pilots are female. There is actually an overall skills shortage in aviation, which is a lucrative career.
Many fathers, mothers and grandparents have posted messages on The Sky’s No Limit Girls Fly Too Facebook page saying what a memorable experience their daughters/granddaughters had and some women pointed out that getting their girls up in the air pushed them to overcome their fear of flying, too.