CWIA Conference Highlights

Oct 12, 2019

Photo: Jennifer Zadorozniak

(Article by Jennifer Zadorozniak, Commercial Pilot-in-Training.)

I waited a long time to attend the biennial Canadian Women in Aviation Conference (CWIA). CWIA began in 1991 as a way for women in Canadian aviation to come together and find a supportive community as they pursued their goals in the industry. The conference brings women from across Canada together from all parts of aviation including: AMEs, pilots, flight instructors, researchers, controllers, government officials and policy makers, space and military personnel, and women from the C-suite. The conference is completely planned and carried out by volunteers now running for 28 years.

This year the conference was held in Ottawa from June 19-23, 2019. The theme was “Beyond Horizons” encouraging women to: defy stereotypes, overcome mental barriers, and blossom into strong, resilient, empowered individuals. Over the jam-packed four days there were several opportunities to attend and participate in panel discussions on a myriad of topics both personal and professional, to network, learn, and explore Ottawa.

I had no idea who I would meet and I can tell you I was blown away by the women in attendance. Some of the trailblazers I met included the first female fighter pilot (Dee Brasseur), and the first female airline pilot in Canada (Rosella Bjornson) and the first at Air Canada (Judy Cameron). I could not sleep the first night! I was very lucky to be surrounded by these supportive women and listen to them talk candidly about their journeys in aviation. I laughed, cried, and made new friends. It is reassuring to hear that there are more opportunities now that never existed previously and it is thanks to these women who paved the way. I felt re-energized to return to Victoria and resume studying (in the middle of summer!) to finish my training.

Highlights for me included the downtown Ottawa scavenger hunt which was about 5kms and over 3 hours in duration. The prizes were awesome aviation swag and of course there were libation stops along the way! The tours of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) Engineering Lab, National Research Council (NRC) Flight Research Lab, and the NRC Wind Tunnels were incredible. In the TSB hanger, I got to see the remains and wreckage of the 747 cargo landing gear that went off the runway in Halifax late last year. Standing next to the gear and wheel, I felt incredibly small. Unfortunately, no cameras were aloud inside the TSB hanger as active investigations were occurring.

Photo: Jennifer Zadorozniak

As a Commercial Pilot in-training, who will be looking for employment soon, I thought Dr. Suzanne Kearns’ from the University of Waterloo presentation was most relevant. Dr. Kearns discussed the International Civil Aviation Organization’s NGAP (Next Generation of Aviation Professionals) and the global pilot shortage. ICAO projects that by 2036 the global aviation sector will need 620,000 new pilots, 125,000 new air traffic controllers, and 1.3 million new aircraft maintenance personnel. The majority of this workforce has not started training yet. In Canada roughly 1200 commercial pilot licenses are issued every year, but only about 500 of these commercial pilots stay and work here. She also spoke about existing flight training practices and how the aviation industry equates hours of training to competence which is not necessarily the best or safest way. For example, 10 hours of circuits at a MF aerodrome compared to 10 hours of cross-country in varying classes of airspace is very different learning and experience. Competency-based training (CBT) was proposed as an alternative where professional competence determines when training is complete, rather than hours of flight. CBT may be employed in the future and assist with pilot shortages. Already some big (Sunwing) and small airlines (Harbour Air, Pacific Coastal) in Canada are hiring Commercial Multi-Engine IFR pilots with less than 300 hours!

The next CWIA conference will be held in 2021 but the city and province have not been announced by the volunteer organizers yet