Monday, October 1, 2012

Bahamasair female pilots to be honoured at final Beauties @ Brunch event set for Nassau

From the Bahama Weekly: Bahamasair female pilots to be honoured at final Beauties @ Brunch event set for Nassau

Nassau, Bahamas - The year's final segment of Cia Monet's Beauties @ Brunch will take place in Nassau on October 14th at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort. Cocktails are at 3pm and the show kicks off at 5pm. This 4th event in a 4-part series to celebrate 50 years of Women’s Suffrage Movement in the Bahamas and to Recognize and pay tribute to Great Women of The Bahamas! This time we honour the three female captains (Gail Saunders, Frances Smith, and Gwendolyn Ritchie) of Bahamasair.

Part proceeds will once again go to the Bahamas Crisis Center. Previous installments were held in Abaco and Grand Bahama after the initial event was held in Nassau. The October 14th Brunch will be under the patronage of Debbie Bartlett, CEO GEMS Radio, Television and Production and will also have two youth honourees: Syngular Journee (Little Miss Petite Bahamas 2011) and Lauryn Rolle (Brownies Captain of the year 2011).

Recording artist Julien Believe will be performing his new single, Caribbean Slide, along with a performance from former Miss Bahamas. Richa Sands. There will also be numbers by the Yodephy School of Dance and a solo dance performance by Sanovia Williams Dance Mogul. Of course it would not be a Cia Monet event without a HAUTE COUTURE fashion show! After all, the hallmark of the Organization is its celebration of fashion, beauty, sophistication, nation building, professionalism and poise showcased at premium venues with food and wine.

There will be heavily discounted pricing on all items worn in the fashion show as well as SILENT auction items to support the Crisis Center.

Cia Monet wishes to publicly thank their sponsors:  Summers Eve, Fujon Media,, Black Opal, Eye Candy Makeup, Eblast Express, Gems Media and Apex Awards.
More about each of our Honourees:


Captain Gail C. Saunders

It seems like flying chose me rather than my choosing flying, because from the day I was born it was as if I was destined to fly the skies. I was born the third daughter to Willard and Alice Martinborough on February 7th,  1963 in Nassau and was christened Gail Christine Martinborough. As a toddler my interests were never baby dolls and all the other things little girls my age found fascinating instead I preferred toy planes, boats, trains and all the other toys girls did not like.  My Sundays were not complete if our family didn’t take a drive to the airport to see the airplanes take off and land at the then Nassau International Airport.

My summers were spent in Long Island with my grandparents Felix and Arimina Carroll. I was the dare devil of my sisters, and much to the horror of my grandparents, my Uncle Ricky and I (we are almost the same age) ran away almost every day to go fishing and swimming by the seaside. The beatings were worth it because doggie-paddling in the fast currents were a lot more appealing than plaiting at home. Whenever we were grounded and forbidden to go swimming we would work on bicycles and anything mechanical that we could get our hands on.  Today I am an airline Captain and my Uncle is a boat Captain – figure that.

My family are devout Anglicans so my early education began at St. Mathew’s Primary School and I went on to complete High School at St John’s College.  As a child we attended St. George’s Anglican Church and today are members of Christ Church Cathedral.

Unable to afford flight school, I was forced to find work after high school and for several years I worked day and night to save money towards my goal.  Upon accepted to the Kitty Hawk Flight School in Ft. Lauderdale I sold my car and went off to get my Private Pilot License.  Upon completion, I went to Freeport, and worked several jobs while accumulating flying hours. This is where I met my guardian angel Mr. John Moore, who allowed me to fly his private plane as well as sponsoring my Commercial Multi Instrument License at Pelican Airways.  Even after obtaining these licences, when I returned home, the only job I was able to find was as a flight attendant on a DC-3 with the promise that I would be able to fly after the first officer was either promoted or moved on, but that never happen.

My big break came when Capt. Paul Aranha hired me at Trans Island Airways (T.I.A.) where I was awarded my command to fly the Britain Norman Islander and the Piper Aztec.  Captain Aranha was a great mentor and not only gave me an opportunity to thrive in a male dominated industry but showed me the in’s and out’s of airplane mechanics which has proven invaluable throughout my career. It was during my time at T.I.A. that I met my husband Walter Saunders who lived in Great Harbour Cay where I flew in and out of almost every day. It was a story book romance and we were married in 1992 the same year T.I.A. closed. Our marriage has been blessed with one child Alexis and he is by far my greatest inspiration and biggest cheerleader.

It was not until 1997 that I was finally employed by Bahamasair to train as a First Officer on the Shorts 360. My tenure at Bahamasair has allowed me to grow professionally and gain immense experience flying on the Shorts 360, the Dash 8 for seven years as a First Officer and the Boeing 737 also as a First Officer for seven years.

I have flown to many destinations including Mexico City, Oklahoma City, Lexington Kentucky, Philadelphia, Trinidad and Tobago. However, the most interesting by far has been the repatriation flights to Haiti.  Although, prior to working for Bahamasair I did a flight to Haiti that can be considered my most frightening because the Haitian authorities held the aircraft papers, I was stranded with my family having no knowledge of my whereabouts - this was before cell phones.  I have also flown some famous people both local and foreign. I was honored to have been the pilot to fly the late Sir Henry Taylor to his final resting place on the great Island of Long Island. Others include Jacques Cousteau, Sir Orville Turnquest, Arthur Haley, Dustin Hoffman, Prince and Princess Guirey and Chevy Chase, just to name a few.

I have achieved my lifelong dream to be one of the first three females at Bahamasair to make the distinguished position of Captain on the Dash-8.  I would like to thank a few people both living and departed who without their help this journey would have been impossible: my father Willard Martinborough and my adopted father Mr. John Moore both of whom have passed on, my mother Alice who is my confidante and the person who has taught me important life lessons about not giving up, as well as my siblings Carol, Sharon and David, my husband Walter and son Alexis, Captain Paul Aranha, my aunts, uncles and cousins.


Captain Gwendolyn Ritchie

I  was born on the 24th of November in Duncan Town Ragged Island.I was the last of ten children , and was christened into the Holy Innocent Anglican Church.

I attended the Ragged Island All Age School, and having done well in B.J.Cs, I was awarded a Scholarship to The Government High School in New Providence.I Graduated in 1985.

I had an early fascination with Airplanes, so naturally  becoming a Pilot was my career of choice.

I had chosen a career, but had no way of funding it. So I went to work.

I spent a few years working at K.F.C. and then at Fedex.and finally, with the support of my family

I completed all licences and ratings required to work in the field of aviation

I began my career with Sky Unlimited, under the guidance of Heuter Rolle, working to meet the requirements for employment at the National Flag Carrier.

I was called to Bahamasair in March of 1995.

Over the past years I have learnt that, with the proper guidance and determination, no job is too difficult to accomplish.

In 2006 I married my best friend Roger Ritchie, and we are the proud parents of five year old Hannah.

I enjoy reading, carpentry, and most sporting activities.

I am a member of St. Ambrose Anglican Church. I have a great commitment for the Lord and for the well being of my Family.


Captain Frances Smith

I was born in Deadman’s Cay, Long Island to Neville and Vera Burrows.  As the youngest of fourteen children I experienced first-hand what it is like to make sacrifices.  I attended Lower Deadman’s Cay Primary School and graduated from NGM Major High in 1980.

In search of employment I moved to Freeport, Grand Bahama and joined Kelly’s Lumber Yard which provided the means to pay for flying lessons.  Six years later I was finally able to obtain my single and multi-engine aircraft ratings.  One year later I took a leave of absence in order to complete my Instrument Commercial rating at American Flyers which is located at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.

In 1991 I relocated to Nassau to work as a Dispatcher with Congo Air.  Having completed the required hours I was checked-out as Pilot in Command of the Piper Aztec.  1995 was the year I joined Bahmasair flying as First Officer on the Shorts 360, Dash 8 and B737-200 aircraft.

I married Captain Eulys Smith in 2002 and later became the proud mother of a beautiful daughter named Celine.  Ten years later I was elevated to the rank of Captain on the Dash 8. I would like to publicly express my gratitude to my husband for his continued love and support throughout my intense training and transition to Captain.  This journey has been a wonderful experience for me and I would also like to thank my First Officers who made my early days as Captain easier.

I am constantly asked “How do you balance your life as a wife, mother and professional?” My response is simply “Teamwork is the key.”

In closing I would like to say how much I appreciate the attention our all-female crew is receiving for this historic achievement in Bahamian Aviation.  It is my pleasure to serve as a role model to the many young ladies who aspire not just to become pilots but professionals in any vocation that has been traditionally male-dominated. 

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