Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Five questions with a Snowbird

From The Spec.com: Five questions with a Snowbird

Lieutenant Colonel Maryse Carmichael is a history maker.

She’s the first woman to be appointed commanding officer of the Snowbirds, the Royal Canadian Air Force’s aerobatic team. The 40-year-old native of Quebec City was given the command in May 2010.

Making history is old hat for Carmichael — the mother of daughters aged 2 and 5 was selected in 2000 to join the Snowbirds, becoming the first female pilot to ever fly with the team. She signed up with the Canadian Forces in 1990 and has flown VIPs around the world — including the prime minister — on CC-130 Hercules transport planes out of Trenton. She is based in Moose Jaw, Sask.

The Snowbirds flew in 54 air shows over the summer and might make an appearance at the 2012 Hamilton air show. An announcement is expected in December.

Carmichael was in Hamilton Friday for an event at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. It was billed as A Dessert Date with Madame Snowbird.

The Spectator sat down with the Lt.-Colonel and asked her five questions.

1 Why did you want to become a pilot?
“I started with the Air Cadets when I was a teenager, actually. One of my older brothers is also a pilot, so I kind of followed in his footsteps. First, when I was 16 doing my glider’s scholarship and then my permanent pilot licence at 17. I really loved it. It was a bit of a passion, so I decided to join the Canadian Forces because ultimately what I wanted to do was fly jets and that’s not something you can really do on civilian streets, or you can, but it’s not as accessible as with the Canadian forces.”

2 How did you become commander of the Snowbirds?
“This is actually a change for the squadron ... the person that you would see flying and leading the formation in the air was also the commander on the ground. In January 2010, the leadership of the Canadian Forces decided to change that because what you see actually on the road travelling, the show team, is actually just a small part of the entire squadron. We have more than 80 people within the squadron. So it became really hard for the commanding officer to be on the road all the time and then to manage all our personnel back at home. So, they created a new position of commanding officer (of the team) and that is where I came in.”

3 How do you feel about becoming the first female commander?
“There are slowly more and more female pilots and I think the statistics are the same whether we are talking about military pilots or civilian pilots, the numbers are very similar ... Perhaps at my level it is still a new thing to have a female, a woman, as a commanding officer, but for me it’s been my entire career working with them. I don’t see anything different.

4 What is the value of the Snowbirds to Canadians?
“Our mission is to demonstrate to the Canadian public the skills, the professionalism and the teamwork of all the men and women of the Canadian Forces ... It’s sometimes hard to quantify what we do. How can you say that we motivate young people to have dreams? I am one of those who saw the Snowbirds when I was a kid and thought that was something I wanted to do. How many people do we recruit? Again, it’s hard to quantify, but we are certainly there for Canada’s pride. We saw it with the Olympics a few years ago how Canada was behind its athletes. That’s also what we do with the Canadian Forces.”

5 How do you do your job with two young kids at home?
“It’s a work-life balance, of course. But you know what? Both my husband (fighter pilot Major Scott Greenough) and I do what we love ... Sometimes there is creative scheduling. For example, I am going back tomorrow (Saturday), we have a big party at home and then he is leaving Sunday for a couple of days ... We are very fortunate the military is helping us in being co-located. Sometimes it does not work out for some of the families ... with the ranks we have, we have a little bit of say in our schedules. Sometimes at the end of the month we both have to be away at the same time. I call my mom and she flies in from Quebec.”

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