Thanks to Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada for bring this story to our attention
Pilots Nicole Jankuta and Laura Simpson say it’s not new for them, but a great northern milestone
CBC News · May 25, 2021
For Nicole Jankuta, a pilot with 10 years in the industry, flying with an all-women crew is nothing new.
In fact, her first flight instructors were women, she says, and while working for larger operations in the South, flying with other women happens on a “pretty regular basis.”
But in the North, the industry is different — and on May 4, Jankuta had the chance to be part of North-Wright Air’s first ever all women crew on their Beechcraft 1900.
The flight went between Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope, Yellowknife, and back.
“Having an opportunity to be up here flying and working for North-Wright and it being something that’s not as common … it’s pretty neat to be a part of,” Jankuta said.
Pilot Laura Simpson was also part of the flight crew.
Both agree they want all-women crews to become more common in the North.
“It’s something that when I first got to North-Wright I wanted to happen after learning that it wasn’t something very prevalent in the history of North-Wright,” she said.
“For this flight to happen, it was kind of like a break in the line … And hopefully, we get more and more pilots that are female coming up here. And then it just kind of becomes a normal thing for us.”
Next milestone: Bush flights, say pilots
Simpson said she was inspired to become a pilot while growing up seeing her mom travel to remote communities as a nurse by plane.
“That was something that I thought was very intriguing — that you could use an aircraft to go to communities that may not have easy access to just, like, the basic needs of life — health care, easy access to food, or clean water, all that sort of stuff,” she said.
“That’s what kind of got me into flying … You can use this piece of machinery, something that I’m comfortable with, to kind of bring others’ needs to them.”
Meanwhile, Jankuta said a summer spent in Inuvik, N.W.T., about a decade ago, along with a helicopter tour over the Delta and a charter flight from Inuvik to Herschel Island, inspired her career path.
Simpson says she’d also like to see more women involved with the bush side of flying.
“I would like to definitely see more women who want to go on floats into the mountains or into off-strip work or on skis,” Simpson said. “I’d like to see women kind of thrive in that area.”
For Jankuta, starting work with North-Wright came as a “blessing in disguise” after being laid off twice in the last year.
“I always did want to come fly [up] North,” she said. “It was kind of nice that the opportunity presented itself.”
Simpson says the next milestone for the company would be an all-women crew on the Twin Otter float plane, “flying into the mountains” — and it’s in reach.
“I think it’s very, very doable,” she said. “That’s something that I would look forward to in the future.”