Sunday, August 21, 2011
Cadets earn their wings
From Medicine Hat News, from Aug 19, 2011: Cadets earn their wings
It's a proud moment for any pilot, to finally get their wings after hours of training and testing.
But the moment is perhaps even more special when you're a teenaged girl and one of only nine female air cadets on the Prairies to receive a pilots' license through a prestigious scholarship program.
"Ever since I've been in cadets, it's what I've been looking forward to," said 17-year-old Leah Gajecki from Claresholm, Alberta.
Gajecki was one of nine young women honoured Friday at a special graduation ceremony at Medicine Hat's Super T Aviation. The local flight school was contracted this summer to host the seven-week Royal Canadian Air Cadets Power Pilot Camp, an extremely competitive program which gives scholarship winners the chance to get their pilots' license for free. It is the first time a Medicine Hat flight school has hosted the camp, which is the only one of its kind for girls in all of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
"It's been great to have the girls here," said Super T owner and chief flying instructor Terri Super. "They're a great bunch of girls, very focused, very mature. It's really something to see kids of that age group be so focused and driven to get this work done."
They had to be driven, because the intensive course allowed little time for relaxation. Days consisted of studying, exams, briefings, flying time, debriefings, ground school, studying, and more studying.
"Basically, you eat, sleep, and breathe aviation while you're here," said Monica Spence of Fort McMurray, who took the award for top marks at the end of the seven weeks. "We slept at the hangar, we ate at the airport it's been all aviation."
"You're stressed about tests, and then you have to fly, and flying when you're not stressed is hard enough," said 17-year-old Torri Davidson of Regina with a laugh.
Many of the girls are now looking forward to pursuing their commercial pilots' license or a military flying career. Those are careers where women are still in the minority, but these girls are already trailblazers just by coming as far as they have. In fact, girls currently make up only about in five of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets who choose to pursue their private pilot's license.
"Even in the cadet program in general, you see it (gender imbalance)," Spence said. "It's nice to see a lot of other females getting up in the air and getting their licenses, and hopefully we'll see a lot more even balance in the years to come."
The visiting inspecting officer Friday was Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Greenough, a fighter pilot with the Canadian forces who is married to Lieutenant-Colonel Maryse Carmichael, Canada's first female Snowbird pilot. Greenough told the nine cadets that his wife passes on her congratulations to them, and her encouragement.
"She said there needs to be a next female Snowbird pilot, because there hasn't been one since her," Greenough said. "That gives you something to aspire to."