Organizers of the annual Girls Fly Too event that was scheduled to take place this weekend in Abbotsford say they have been forced to postpone the event due to “arbitrary demands” made by Transport Canada.
But the federal agency says organizers submitted an incomplete application and failed to complete required safety revisions.
In a written statement released Wednesday evening (Sept. 28), organizers said they received word within 72 hours of the event – and within 12 hours of U.S. military aircraft leaving from 15 states – that they were required to meet some additional “last-minute” conditions.
“Some of these arbitrary conditions make us very uncomfortable, such as being required to provide the personal contact information for every single one of our hundreds of volunteers, to the regulator,” the statement reads.
“This is not a normal request of any event, and is not something we are prepared to do.”
The Sky’s No Limit – Girls Fly Too event was scheduled for Oct. 1 and 2, and is organized by the Langley-based Achieve Anything Foundation.
It is described as “the world’s largest gender diversity outreach event of its kind in aviation, aerospace, marine and defence.”
Free flights are offered for any female first-time fliers, and numerous displays and hands-on activities are offered.
Organizers said the event has grown over the years to the point it has required additional approvals from Transport Canada, but the latest conditions “do not appear to be based in law and many are impossible to meet within the time frame remaining.”
They said the newest conditions forced them to consider “the potential for significant collateral damage to many parties” if they continued with the event.
“We cannot in good conscience risk these precious contributions, people’s livelihoods and your disappointment without the event’s success being assured,” the statement reads.
“Therefore, we need to put a stop to our event until such time as we can bring external forces to bear and resolve these issues with Transport Canada. We are truly sorry that we will not be able to see you this weekend.”
Sau Sau Liu, senior communications adviser with Transport Canada, said in an emailed statement that any aviation events that include flights require a Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) from the agency. The application must be made no later than 60 days prior to the event.
She said Transport Canada provided Girls Fly Too organizers with a “comprehensive list of areas of improvements for future SFOC applications” in 2019.
Liu said organizers submitted their application in the required timeline, but it was incomplete.
She said Transport Canada then met in person with them on Aug. 15.
“Subsequently, on Sept. 15, a letter was sent detailing each deficiency in the application, for the applicant’s revision. The applicant has yet to complete the required safety revisions,” Liu said.
She said the SFOC was not granted due to key areas of concern that included “insufficient event management and emergency response plans for an event of this size, a lack of information regarding the qualifications of pilots and aircraft that will be deployed during the event, and lack of details on human resources (security personnel, volunteers) required to provide crowd control.”
Liu said the Girls Fly Too event could still have taken place without the SFOC; only the flights would not be permitted.
The event started out in Langley but as it grew in popularity, was moved to Abbotsford. The organizers also have a chance for women and girls to spend a day on a Canadian naval vessel for the day. It’s happening Oct. 22. There’s an event in April 2023 where girls and women can spend a day with Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service. Learn more at the Achive Anything Foundation website.