Organizers blame regulator after women in aviation event cancelled at last minute

Click to play video: 'Abbotsford aviation event for youth cancelled at last minute'
Abbotsford aviation event for youth cancelled at last minute
A major B.C. event to encourage young people to get into aviation was cancelled at the last minute, and there are differing opinions on who's to blame. Transport Canada says it has safety concerns. Organizers say they've been putting on the show for years, and there's never been a problem. Aaron McArthur has the story – Sep 29, 2022

A major B.C. event designed to get women and girls into aviation has been cancelled at the last minute, with a war of words over who is to blame.

Over 10 years, ‘The Sky’s Not Limit – Girls Fly Too‘ has hosted more than 120,000 women and girls and taken more than 12,000 of them flying for the first time.

After a pandemic hiatus, the event was set to take flight again this weekend at the Abbotsford airport. But organizers say they were forced to ground the event after Transport Canada denied approval.

“My volunteers are in tears. We have so many messages on social media and phone calls, people looking for answers,” organizer Kristen Brazier told Global News.

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“All of these businesses have committed hundreds of thousands of dollars of resources, including helicopters to have this event and Transport Canada has been giving us crickets.”

Since its inception, Girls Fly Too has grown significantly, with bigger crowds and more aircraft. In 2019, Transport Canada laid out what would be required from organizers going forward.

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Brazier said organizers submitted their application for the event in July, but that Transport Canada has been moving goalposts since then.

“We finally got a letter two weeks ago with some deficiencies we could work with. We turned those around, and the next thing we knew we got a letter a few days ago saying there were five pages of new deficiencies to meet,” she said.

“Our question is, if there were deficiencies and we asked for them to be put on paper, why were they not given to us at the beginning of this process, or at the very least two weeks ago?”

The last-minute notification, Brazier said, meant they had to pull the plug just hours before military aircraft from 12 U.S. states were set to fly to B.C.

In a statement, Transport Canada said the organizers of the event submitted an incomplete initial application, and met with organizers on Aug. 15 about problems.

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It said there were several emails exchanged after that, and finally a letter dated Sept. 15 detailing deficiencies including insufficient event management and emergency response, a lack of information regarding the qualifications of the pilots and aircraft deployed during the event, and a lack of details on security personnel and volunteers.

“Transport Canada has been involved with us on site for three years — one year they were a sponsor,” Brazier said.

“Not once in those four years has anyone brought up anything safety-related.”

Transport Canada said the event could have gone ahead if the displays of aircraft were static, and not intended for flight operations, something Brazier said would have defeated the purpose.

Despite the disappointment, she said organizers are now hard at work trying to determine how they can get things off the ground at a later date.

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