Air Inuit’s first female Inuk captain, Melissa Haney, is hoping to become an inspiration to others as she travels across the country trying to encourage more women to earn their wings.
“Every day, I look out the window and say, ‘My gosh, I love my job,'” said Haney.
She is trying to inspire other young women across Canada by travelling the country with Elevate Aviation to encourage more women to become pilots.
On Thursday, she spoke in front of a group of high school students at the NAV Canada’s air traffic control centre in Riverview, N.B.
Alexandrea Short, 17, a high school student from Moncton, hung on her every word.
“It is not something that I even realized that women necessarily did. I have seen a lot of women flight attendants but not a lot of women pilots,” said Short.
Haney started her career as a flight attendant for Air Inuit in 2001, but says she dreamed of being at the helm.
“I just loved to be in the plane and I just wanted to strive to have a better career,” she said.
She got her pilot’s licence and in 2004, her career in aviation took off.
By 2016, she had become Air Inuit’s first female Inuk captain flying a Dash-8.
Haney said that coming from the far northern community of Inukjuak, it was not a typical career path.
“I think a lot is cultural and confidence, so I think when they see somebody who comes onto that plane… and you are in your uniform and are proud of who you are, they are like, ‘Oh, she can do it, so can I,” she said.
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Haney said of the more than 140 pilots with Air Inuit, only 10 are women, and she says less than 10 per cent of pilots in Canada are female.
“I think our new challenge will be getting young girls into it and staying in it for the rest of their career,” she said.
Haney says her career has been a rewarding one. After more than 15 years as a pilot, she is now a mother of two living and working out of Montreal, and last summer, she was chosen to be featured on a commemorative stamp for the Canadian 99s.
“The 99s of Canada is a group of female aviators — it actually started with Amelia Earhart,” she said.
Much like Earhart, she too has become a pioneer hoping to help other female pilots soar.
“If one or two could come out and say, ‘I want to be a pilot someday,’ I would be really honoured,” said Haney.