Fanshawe hosts aviation event for young girls

A photo of the interior of Fanshawe's Aviation Centre. CREDIT: GRACIA ESPINOSA
Fanshawe hosted a special event at its Aviation Centre in collaboration with The Ninety-Nines Canada and Women in Aviation International.

On Dec. 9, 2023, The Ninety- Nines Canada (Canadian 99s) and Women in Aviation International (WAI) organized an event for girls aged five to 14 at Fanshawe’s Aviation Centre. Girl Guides were invited to the centre to earn their badges in aviation.

“The Ninety-Nines has done Girl Guides badge events in other cities, like Dallas in Texas and other places in Canada. So, we’re grateful because Fanshawe’s the perfect location for these girls to participate in this,” Flight Services Program Coordinator Haley Whitelaw said.

This was Fanshawe’s first time hosting this event, with the hope of encouraging children to pursue careers in aviation. The idea started when Whitelaw and Michelle Gagnon, part of the Canadian 99s organization, met at the last Airshow London in September.

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“She [Whitelaw] had access to that facility, and it was a perfect place to have it. The access for the girls to see some airplanes up close and the airport right outside was great. It is also a nice central location for multiple groups to participate,” Gagnon said.

Both shared the idea with their contacts and spread the word to get volunteers to help carry out the event.

“The Girl Guides are motivated by earning badges for their sashes. So, they come out here, and they do five different activities to learn about the various careers that they can have,” Whitelaw said. “We have women in aviation from Western University here teaching them the mapping.”

Maya Jaquith, Jorja Look and Radhika Kala were part of this group from Western.

“We decided to volunteer because we have the Western University’s chapter affiliation of Women in Aviation International [Western Aviatrix], and they invited us here to help,” Jaquith explained.

Look said she was previously unaware of all the job opportunities available in the aviation industry, so she considers this event necessary to show future generations all the options available to them.

“We’re introducing all these options to the kids at a very young age, so when they do get to an age where they can decide what to do, they know about these options,” Look said.

Kala agreed with Look as the event allows the girls to explore and find out about other jobs. She explained that she wanted to be a pilot because she had been interested in planes and being in the air since childhood. But now she’s looking forward to exploring the other options.

Whitelaw mentioned other activities they did at Fanshawe with the help of other volunteers with aviation experience.

“We have some aircraft marshalling,” Whitelaw said. “We’ve got pilots who lead the children on a walk around for a preflight check on the Cessna 150. And then, we’ve got volunteers from Elevate Aviation working on learning the phonetic alphabet in different careers in aviation. And then lastly, we’ve also got a maker’s area, which is like a craft room where they’re building their little airplane.”

Gagnon said this event is also a great opportunity for little girls to see females in male-dominated careers inside the aviation field.

“They need that representation to show that women also can do it.”