In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re profiling influential women in aviation to gain insight into how they navigate through a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Kelly Jamieson is extremely enthusiastic about flying Airbus A319s up and down the west coast for Air Canada rouge, but her passion for aviation extends well beyond the flight deck. She’s been instrumental in the success of two provincial chapters of Women in Aviation, and she’s presently serving as a director of the Aviation Leadership Foundation, non-profit organization based in British Columbia.
The British Columbia Aviation Council (BCAC) recognized Kelly in 2014 for her outstanding contribution to the promotion of aviation in British Columbia. She was presented with the Robert S. Day Award at the BCAC’s Silver Wings gala for her work in building the Aviation Leadership Foundation’s Mentorship Program. Kelly will begin her Masters in Leadership this summer and she looks forward to joining Air Canada’s training department in the future.
Favorite aircraft: A330
Now reading: I Was Told There’d Be Cake, Sloane Crosley
Paper or electronic boarding pass? Paper. I’ve collected about 450 of them so far, from years of deadheading and adventuring. I plan to build a cabin one day and use them to wallpaper a room.
Favorite airport restaurant: Skyway Café in YVR (US Departures) – for the best BLTs!
Female role model: Teara Fraser, a good friend of mine who became a pilot, finished her Masters, started a business and founded a non-profit organization – all while raising her kids alone.
The future of flight will be: Fantastic
When did you know you wanted to become a pilot?
Both of my parents were in the Canadian Air Force, so aviation has been a part of my life since day one. At age 18, I was traveling through Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and ahead of me in the security line was a pilot who had a Grateful Dead sticker on his flight bag. I really loved the Grateful Dead and that was the first time I considered “airline pilot” as a potential occupation. But I didn’t decide to pursue aviation until the following year, when I went on a “discovery flight” at St. Andrew’s Airport (north of Winnipeg). I’ll never forget the moment the door on the Cessna 152 (C-GUZW) popped open during the flight. I looked down and saw the electric green flax fields 2,000 feet below and that was it for me – the rest is history.
How influential are female pilots in today’s aviation industry?
The influence is not necessarily deliberate, we’re just there doing what we are trained to do, doing what we love. But just by being in this role, I think we lead by example. The public perception that being a pilot is a man’s job still exists, so when people see a woman in the flight deck or in uniform walking through the airport, I think it expands some horizons.
“The public perception that being a pilot is a man’s job still exists, so when people see a woman in the flight deck or in uniform walking through the airport, I think it expands some horizons.”
What are the biggest professional hurdles that female pilots, and women in the aviation industry in general, face today?
Inside the industry, I don’t think people consider gender – they just see positions and qualified people filling them. The very first company I flew for typically didn’t hire women because women didn’t want to do that type of work (flying up north into remote gravel strips in the mountains, in very challenging conditions, fueling and loading our own airplanes). By the time you arrive at a major airline job though, you’ve usually demonstrated that you’re a capable and committed pilot. In my experience, gender doesn’t limit your progression. I think sometimes we, as women, might bring or create our own barriers based on what we are willing or not willing to do.
Why did you become involved in the Women in Aviation organization?
I graduated with an degree in aviation management in 2002, not even one year after 9/11. It was a terrible time to be seeking a job in the aviation industry. Women in Aviation provided a supportive and encouraging place to connect with others facing similar challenges. It’s important that we have somewhere to turn to help us stay motivated and inspired – and it’s vital we make time to give back and help others once we’ve reached our goals.
What advice would you give to a woman interested in a career as a pilot?
- Commit to your goal and do not stop until you get there. The only people I know who didn’t succeed in aviation are the ones who quit. The only one who will ever limit your potential is you. Stay positive and confident in your abilities and be prepared to work hard. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
- Connect with positive people who will support and inspire you along the way. Find a mentor. Have the courage to ask for help. You can’t do it alone – no one I know ever has.
- A retiring airline pilot once said this to me when I was 22: “Enjoy the ride up, because it happens fast.” I didn’t believe him at the time, but looking back now, 13 years later, the most challenging years of my career now feel like just the blink of an eye.