Indigenous and female aviators hope to inspire NWT’s teens

Air Inuit Captain Melissa Haney talks to a young fan in this photo submitted by Elevate Aviation.
Air Inuit Captain Melissa Haney talks to a young fan in this photo submitted by Elevate Aviation.

Yellowknife teenagers will be offered aviation workshops in April, including the chance to meet the first female Inuk captain of a commercial airliner.

In Canada, recent studies suggest only around five percent of pilots, one percent of aircraft maintenance engineers, and 17 percent of air traffic controllers are female.

Elevate Aviation, an Edmonton-based non-profit, hopes to help change that through a series of free, hands-on workshops at airports across the country.

But when Elevate comes to Yellowknife on April 28, it’ll offer workshops for both young men and women aged 12 to 19.



“There are so many people out there who just don’t think about taking a career in aviation and they don’t know about all the exciting careers that are inside aviation,” said Kendra Kincade, founder of Elevate Aviation and an air traffic controller.

“So we’re trying to bring some awareness around all that and show people how much fun, and kind-of how cool it can be, to work inside the industry.”

Kincade is excited to bring Melissa Haney, the first female Inuk pilot to captain an aircraft, to Yellowknife for the workshops.

Haney is from Quebec and works for Air Inuit.



“We feel like she’s really going to help inspire people in the North,” said Kincade.

During the workshops, Haney will speak about her career as a pilot, Kincade will share her experiences as an air traffic controller, and a range of other women in aviation will talk about their jobs.

One of those is Cassandra Hepp, an aircraft maintenance engineer who works for Summit Air in Yellowknife.

“I really like this job,” she said, explaining that a few years ago, she didn’t even know it existed.

“I’m passionate to be a woman in the maintenance field. I would like to support and inspire other women to think about pursuing a career in the aviation industry.

“That’s pretty much the big reason why I’m volunteering with Elevate Aviation – to help get the word out. Some people just might not know this career even exists, like I didn’t.”

Hepp, who began her career with Northwestern Air Lease in Fort Smith, will give youth a tour of the Summit hangar and aircraft.

She’ll also help to answer questions throughout the day.



Kincade said youth will have a chance to participate in some hands-on activities.

“They’re going to get to sit inside an airplane, they’re going to get to play the simulator,” she said.

“We’re going to take them over to the Nav Canada tower [at Yellowknife Airport] and go up into the tower.”

Kincade said the workshops have been so well-received elsewhere that Edmonton International Airport has given the organization space to run week-long behind-the-scenes experiences for the next three years.

The new Elevate Aviation Learning Centre will dedicate weeks to co-ed high school students, Indigenous adults, and female adults.

Kincade said Elevate has the capacity at Yellowknife Airport to host at least 50 youth, but those interested should register by April 27.