Uma Lauridsen

Girls of all ages urged to reach for the sky

Sky’s the Limit flight was a huge hit with four-year-old Uma and her mom, says reporter who shared their flight

As the tiny four-seat helicopter lifts off the tarmac at Langley Regional Airport, I grip my reporter’s notebook tightly, trying to ignore the slight turbulence as we start to gain altitude during Saturday’s  drizzling grey weather.

If four-year-old Uma Lauridsen in the seat behind me isn’t afraid — and no four-year-old smiles that big for show — then I should try to calm my nerves.

Then I look down. Way down.

One thousand feet above Langley Township’s green patchwork of farmland, cars move like ants on the roads below. The shift in perspective is drastic, and the cockpit of our aircraft is silent as Uma, her mother Beverly Neufeld and I take in the view from our first-ever helicopter trip.

It occurs to me how lucky I was, growing up with parents who bought me as many toy airplanes as they did dolls, to know any high-flying dreams I was interested in were within reach.

And that’s just the message that more than 1,000 girls had the chance to hear during the Girls Fly Too celebration of women in aviation, held at the Langley airport March 8 and 9.

More than 1,200 girls and women were signed up to take free flights on helicopters and small planes at the event, which also featured opportunities to meet female members of the Coast Guard and Air Force and the chance for young girls to get up close and personal with the inner workings of the powerful machines that give us humans the capability of flight.

Representatives from the Vancouver Airport were on hand, outfitting ladies with Amelia Earhart-esque white scarves, and girls had the chance to talk education options with members of the University of Fraser Valley and BCIT aerospace programs.

While waiting in line for my flight amid the hum of propellers, I met Major Rhonda Stevens, a Canadian Forces flight navigator with more than 20 years experience.

When I ask her what she flew, she points to the mammoth bright yellow DHC5 Buffalo search and rescue plane from Comox parked 50 metres away. My eyes widen.

“I like that it’s a dynamic job, so you don’t always go to work for the same thing,” explains Stevens. She says out of her squad of 200, only three aviators — one navigator and two pilots — are women.

It’s not about barrier to entry, she insists, but about generating more interest among young girls.

“For my kids, I can set a good example,” she says of why she enjoys her work so much, noting that the need to remain physically fit, flexible and always learning are traits she prizes showing her six- and two-year-old daughters.

Back in the helicopter, the pilot sets us gently back down on solid ground, much too soon for the quiet but wide-eyed Uma. As cadets walk the three of us back to the airplane hangar, I look over my shoulder to watch the next group of excited girls step up for their turn in the air.

“Was it fun?” they ask us as we pass.

“Yes,” Beverly and I chime in unison.

Uma only has eyes for the whirring chopper taking off beside us.

Just Posted

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

UPDATE: Abbotsford murder victim was brother of slain gang leader

Mandeep Grewal gunned down Thursday, brother Gavin killed in North Van in 2017

Man who sexually assaulted teen in Abbotsford is declared dangerous offender

Anton Foulds has more than 30 convictions, dating back to 1991

LETTER: Retired firefighter defends union’s election involvement

In rebuttal to another letter writer’s stance on firefighter involvement in municipal politics.

Nominations wanted for Langley moms in need

The Mama Coach launched the 2nd annual Christmas for Mamas Giveback campaign.

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Pot sales down by nearly 70% on Day 2 of legalization in B.C.

Several products on BC Cannabis Store are still sold out

B.C. jury finds man guilty of Japanese exchange student’s murder

Natsumi Kogawa was found at empty heritage mansion shortly after she was reported missing in 2016

Most Read