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Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week in St-Hyacinthe

By Johanne Bedard
Coordinator Aviation DM CSU3

StHyacinthe_smlWell…Mother Nature may not be aware. At least for CSU3 where the weather for the beginning of the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week (WOAW) is not adequate. WOAW is an international event and Aviation DM inc flying school intends to participate for the second year in a row.

Finally. March 6th. 1300Z.

TAF CYHU 061138Z 0612/0712 04012G22KT P6SM FEW020 BKN060 TEMPO
0612/0618 OVC020
BECMG 0612/0614 05015G25KT
FM061800 05015G25KT P6SM BKN025
BECMG 0701/0703 05015KT

Light and constant crosswinds, a low and desperatly grey ceiling. First day without rain. Standing on the runway, they exchange about the weather, look at the clouds, “taste” the air. “They” are the pilots who will guide 16 young ladies (13 students + 3 adults) during the WOAW. “They” are André Morin, pilot and chief instructor at Aviation DM inc flying school, Jean Messier and Patrick Remy, pilots. Days are going by and not a single flight has been realized yet.

“Let’s give it a try ! We’ll adjust as the day goes by and weather changes”. Flying is an experience where weather does not always give you what you want and the participants will have the chance to discover it as part of the experience.

Johanne Bédard, pilot and coordinator of the event contacts the participants of the first wave. The week before, she met with them in a highschool close to the airport to explain the goals of the WOAW event. In collaboration with Aviation DM inc, we have invited young ladies not sure of what they want to do in life, asking themselves if school is for them, looking for their own passion, to join us and have a “pilot of the day” experience. Who knows ? They might discover a career where ladies are still, and unfortunately, a minority.

With the help of Marc Perreault, student pilot, radio and television announcer, a ground school session is organized to “train” our future “co-pilots” of the day. “How to use the yoke, the rudder pedals, how to communicate clearly, are subjects covered during the session. “Yes ladies ! You WILL have control of the aircraft” ! Around the table there are some very big eyes and not a single sound…”Ok ladies, ready ? Let’s do it » !

The participants ready to go are a bit nervous, speechless. A Cessna, a Mooney and a GrummanTiger are parked. They will walk around the plane with their pilot to make sure the plane is safe to fly. Once on board, we fasten the seat belts and last safety instructions are given. The door is now closed…some of them will whisper a timid “Oh my God”.

Engine is started, check list completed, let’s head to the runway. Today, it will be “02”, light crosswinds. The engine is roaring louder and louder, speed increases and then, after a few seconds, the plane gently pull off the ground and “St-Hyacinthe traffic, 1000 feet runway heading 02, leaving the circuit eastbound.

Slowly the candidates are coming back from their first intense emotions. They start breathing again. Suddenly: “You have control » bring them back quickly to reality. “So it was true!”. Slowly developing confidence, and always under the supervision of an experienced pilot, the young co-pilots will manage smooth turns, climbing and descending by themselves. Some of them will also experience abruptly bend performed by the pilot…”Wouuuaahhh”.

Their eyes are glued to the hood. At the same time they are trying to keep a level flight, grab the whole picture of the surrounding landscape and find, from the air, their home (“I swear it was there the last time !”). Not an easy task to do if, on top of it, you add a camera taking thousands of pictures! It was no easier to find the way back home when the pilot asks “Ok co-pilot, we’re going back. Tell me, where is the airport ?”. Everything is so different seen from up there and even more when you are all excited by your first flight. That day, CSU3 has been seen in many different places ! Finally, going back to base, final 02. Smooth landing, crosswinds on a very tiny, narrow runway…

Back at the flying school the candidates that were so silent before they left cannot stop talking now. They talk restlessly to each other, those who made the flight, and those who will do it in the next wave. Everyone is happy, all of them would go back again. “Ok girls, time to debrief, take pictures, make a video of your experience, get your souvenir documents, diploma and the official T-shirt!”.

Weather wise Thursday March 7th was about the same as Wednesday. Low ceiling, light crosswinds. Pilots, standing on the runway “look deeply into the clouds”, evaluate the winds. All are ok with it and then “CSU3, we’re clear to go with day 2 of WOAW”. “Gentlemen, start your engines”.

Local media will be part of the day to cover the event. Aerial pictures and videos of planes in flight will be done. Well, IF the co-pilots can find the other plane in flight!

On that same day, Linda White, pilot and member of Montreal Chapter 99s (a Canadian women pilot association) will join the group of volunteers. Media will take the opportunity to ask Linda lots of questions on the role played by women in aviation, their place, their training and opportunities. The day after, she will fly with a candidate on Cessna 172 GOYC.

The event will end, at CSU3, on March 8th, the International Women day. Mother Nature did a little special that day and sent us plenty of sun. On that day, Madeleine Berthault, a grandmother who dreamt in her younger age to become a pilot will be pilot in command of GOYC. A delightful day for her and all who were there.

Women of Aviation Worldwide Week 2013, St-Hyacinthe:Mission accomplished ! The pilots had fun and the participants loved it. Ho…by the way…the candidates are Alexandra, Vicky, Amélie, Véronique, Jennifer, Chloé, Maryse, Marie-Pier, Cassandra, Oriana, Alexina, Nancy and Cindy, all highschool students from St-Hyacinthe.

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