Two Manitoba pilots are soaring into the history books as the first Indigenous women medivac team in the province.
Captain Robyn Shlachetka and First Officer Raven Beardy have only been flying together for three days and didn’t realize significance when they took off together on Monday.
“It’s great, it feels great. We weren’t expecting that kind of response, we weren’t expecting to be the first,” Shlachetka said.
It was on Shlachetka’s bucket list to fly with another female Indigenous pilot after complaining to her dad, a float plane pilot, about not seeing anyone like her in the sky.
“There are hardly any Indigenous pilots, there’s hardly any women pilots,” she said. “He said if you can’t find a role model, just become one.”
And that’s what the two women have done.
Beardy wanted to become a pilot from a young age, growing up in remote communities following her dad’s career in the RCMP.
“Aviation is vital, it’s a lifeline so I wanted to be part of that,” she said.
“If I can fly and if my skills can help someone at the same time then it feels awesome, I feel lucky.”
The women fly with Missinippi Airways and medivac people from northern Manitoba communities to Thompson or Winnipeg.
It’s part of the rush that hooked Beardy.
“You’re always on your toes and every day every flight is a new adventure, no flight is ever the same. It’s amazing, thrilling and a lot of fun,” she said.
Kim Ballantyne has wanted to be a pilot since she was four or five years old. As an Indigenous woman she looks up to Beardy and Shlachetka.
“It makes me happy and proud to see other Indigenous women actually being pilots,” she said.
“They’re such a good example that you can achieve your dreams if you just go for it. It gives me more motivation and drive to find funds to get my license.”
Ballantyne is pursuing her pilot’s license while working full time.
Beardy hopes she can help other young women see themselves in a career in the sky.
“I’ve never really thought of myself as a role model or inspiration but if I am I feel really honoured,” she said.