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Elevate Aviation event shows the sky’s the limit with an aviation career

Youth given insights into careers in the airline industry

Flying an Avro Lancaster, a bomber aircraft once used during the Second World War, is a major goal for Jamie MacDonald, a former Yellowknife resident now living in Toronto. 

“My great-grandfather was on it in World War Two and he survived… about 36 flights… and the survival rate for rear gunner in World War Two was only three per cent,” said MacDonald, herself now an accomplished vintage warplane pilot who was once a C-46 and DC-3 pilot at Buffalo Airways. 

“And so that's really what brought me into it,” she said of her grandfather’s wartime history. 

“That's the whole reason I came to Buffalo, why I fly a Harvard (aircraft) now. My end goal is to fly that Lancaster and it's such a unique story that really goes back a long way,” she said. 

While it was that keen interest in her family history and in all things aviation-related that put MacDonald on her pathway to the skies, she eventually decided she wanted to share her love for flight with others considering a career in the aviation industry. 

Reaching skyward 

MacDonald was able to share her joy of flying recently through her involvement with Elevate Aviation, a not-for-profit organization based in Alberta that provides an opportunity for women and youth to learn more about the opportunities in aviation. 

MacDonald, now a commercial pilot for WestJet, hosted an Elevate Aviation cross-country, 29-city tour event last week at the Air Tindi hangar in Yellowknife for about 35 youth participants who were keen on getting an inside glimpse of the aviation world. 

She said the day-long event consisted of various speakers, herself included, and then a tour was given of several hangars, the Yellowknife Airport and the NAV Canada air traffic control tower. 

“All of the speakers today were women, all very successful in what they do and are loving what they do. So it does show that if you have a passion for something, it's really important that you follow through with it,” MacDonald said. 

Charting a career path 

Youth were given a first-hand look behind the scenes of the various career choices. 

“Yellowknife itself was born and raised off of aviation, especially to the people up here. And right now, Yellowknife doesn't have a school, so it's important to raise awareness that if people did want to pursue a career as a pilot, for example, they're going to have to end up looking to go somewhere else,” MacDonald said. 

“So, it's really important that we get people seeing what they might be interested in or what they might not be interested in.” 

A career in aviation encompasses not only those in the air, but on the ground, MacDonald said. 

Air traffic controllers, maintenance engineers and an array of ground crew all play an integral part of the airline industry, she said. 

The interest in aviation grew among the youth during the days’ events, she said. 

“When I started off the tour this morning, I asked them, ‘Who's excited to be here?’ and everyone says, ‘Yeah, me,’ and then when I asked them at the end of the day, I said, ‘Who wants to find a career maybe in aviation?’ and so many of them were, you know, so happy and they raised their hands. 

“They had a fantastic time and that's really what we wanted. You know, one of the things about aviation is it's just so small and just something small like this can really have a lasting impression on students and on people. 

“It's really an amazing feeling to be able to help somebody, and that's what aviation is all about.”