Latest News

Women hit the skies in Oshawa

Emma Flanagan-Dellipizzi (left) and Madeline Garriock are recipients of the Power Pilot Scholarship program, which provided them with their commercial licenses, while Garriock is the first to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Toronto Airways Canadian Flight Academy. (Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Being a woman in a male dominated field isn’t always easy.

Quite often those who participate in said fields will experience sexism and will be blocked from moving up to a higher position.

One such field is aviation, where Emma Flanagan-Dellipizzi, 20, an instructor at the Toronto Airways Canadian Flight Academy in Oshawa, and Madeline Garriock, 19, a dispatcher at the Canadian Flight Academy, have not only succeeded, but are thriving as well.

Flanagan-Dellipizzi was born and raised in Oshawa, where she also attended the air cadets, and Garriock is from Port Perry, but was in the same squadron as Flanagan-Dellipizzi, only a couple of years behind.

Garriock notes the reason she was in the same squadron is because there isn’t one in Port Perry, so Oshawa is the closest.

Both Flanagan-Dellipizzi and Garriock received what is called the Power Scholarship through the cadet program, which awarded them their private pilot licenses.

The Power Pilot Scholarship program is a seven-week course for air cadets age 17 to 18 can apply, and includes ground school and in-flight instruction.

Those who complete the course receive their private pilots license at no cost. The license is regularly valued at approximately $15,000.

According to Andrew Leslie, the chief flight instructor at the Canadian Flight Academy in Oshawa, Garriock is the first air cadet to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Canadian Flight Academy.

The scholarship is offered to both the Oshawa and Whitby Air Cadet squadrons, Leslie says.

“We offered basically a furthering of education to become professional pilots,” says Leslie.

Flanagan-Dellipizzi attended O’Neill Collegiate and Vocational Institute, and also went to the University of Toronto but has “put a pause on the studies,” although she plans to return eventually.

Garriock previously attended Port Perry High School, and went to the Canadian Flight Academy immediately after.

“As of right now, my spare time is a little limited because I’m here all the time,” Flanagan-Dellipizzi says with a laugh. “I mean, I guess that’s one of the perks of having a job that was a hobby for me and now it’s my job…which is a pretty great thing to say that you’re doing something you care about and enjoy.”

Garriock says she is the opposite, as right now she has a lot of free time because she’s constantly studying as she has an exam coming up.

“On the side, I do actually glide with the cadet program actively,” she says. “I’m so excited for this season to start again… I’m pumped to see everyone again.”

Flanagan-Dellipizzi says as a young girl she didn’t initially have a lot of interest in aviation.

“It wasn’t really until I joined cadets that it became a little more apparent in my life,” she says.

“With the nature of the program – it is air cadets – so there is a component where you’re learning about aviation, where you’re learning about airplanes,” she says. “When it came down to when I actually started to enjoy it was when I actually started to apply for the scholarships that the cadet program offers.”

She initially entered air cadets not knowing if she was going to love aviation, but just to try it out and see if the opportunity was there.

Ultimately, she enjoyed it quite a lot and that’s what influenced her to follow the path she is on today.

For Garriock, she got interested in whole industry at the age of 12.

“We had good friends of ours who were helping to run the Waterloo Airshow. So we went out and I actually got to meet almost all of the pilots there, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever,” she recalls. “Since then, I’ve known I want to do something in aviation.”

Garriock says she has been lucky because she’s had strong role models who have helped “nudge” her down the path of aviation.

She initially joined the army cadets, but after inspiration from one of her role models she moved over to air cadets.

Since then she has applied for the scholarships the air cadets offered, and is pleased to still be there.

Typically, aviation has been a male dominated industry, so as a woman going into the field, Flanagan-Dellipizzi says she felt very supported.

“It wasn’t necessarily ‘Oh you’re a woman you need to come make our statistics better” it was ‘You’re a girl who’s interested in flying, we think that’s great and we want to support you and make that you feel just as comfortable as all the males that are applying, and just as comfortable as anyone and make sure that you have the same opportunities,” she says.

However, she does note she did encounter some people she says did not have the same beliefs as her when it came to women flying.

“[It was] certainly a little bit frustrating, but luckily what I found is that the people around me, especially the men who were on the course with me and training with me, were very supportive and happy to have us there. They treated us no different than they treated anyone else,” says Flanagan-Dellipizzi.

Now that she’s actually at the Canadian Flight Academy, she’s found there have really been no issues being a woman there.

Garriock notes she was two years behind Flanagan-Dellipizzi in cadets, and when she joined her colleague had just started the Power course, which Garriock thought “was the coolest thing.”

Laughing with Flanagan-Dellipizzi, Garriock says, “This is really embarrassing right now, but honestly she was one of the biggest role models for me when I was in cadets.”

She says seeing one of the pilots from her squadron, which she notes was equally male and female during her time, enter the Power course was very encouraging for her to keep going.

“For myself and my opinions on the whole thing, I went on both glider and power and on the power scholarship I think we had more females than we did males,” explains Garriock. “There was never any kind of discrimination between the two, it was just either you can fly or you can’t fly.”

It was a little different for Flanagan-Dellipizzi however, as she says her course had fewer females.

“The glider experience was good, we had a lot of female instructors there,” she says. “All of the senior staff and the ones who had authority were all female, so lots of role models there.”

However, she says getting to the private lessons was a little different, but it came down to one or two different people.

She says these people “clearly did not feel the same about having women in the program. So obviously [there was] a little bit of a set back there. Especially, you know, you come into that program and in my case you only had five girls and another 18 guys on the course, so there was a bit of a numbers difference there. So you could really feel it, especially because of the nature of the program, you get there because you’re a leader, so being an outspoken female sometimes doesn’t work too well with some men who are in the industry.”

However, Flanagan-Dellipizzi notes most of the men in the program were happy to have the women there and were very supportive. She adds they would stand up for them if someone was trying to “bring us down” simply because they were a woman.

“Otherwise, the staff who were at the school – the flight instructors there – we had quite a few female instructors who were all excellent leaders and examples of what it means to be a woman in aviation,” says Flanagan-Dellipizzi.

Flanagan-Dellipizzi also noted these experiences are not just in aviation, but are universal and can be found in most other fields as well.

“There’s people out there who maybe believe woman shouldn’t do the same career, shouldn’t have the same leadership roles. You just have to understand that those people are out there but just because they say you shouldn’t be there doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there.”

For Garriock, when she did the Power course, she says the women outnumbered the men.

“They were great sports about it,” she says. “None of them felt any kind of pressure to be ‘the man.’”

She says when she did her Power course, all but one of the instructors were male, except for the chief flight instructor, who she says was a 5’2” woman who carried herself like a “thunderstorm.”

Garriock spoke of a time when her mother was on a plane from Greece and she became fast friends with another mother.

“They were completely comfortable with each other after like two hours on the plane,” she says with a chuckle. “My mom showed a picture to the lady of myself at the flight school in the whole flight suit and all of the big get up beside the plane, and the lady was completely shocked.”

She says when her mother came back she noted it was strange to her because the woman questioned how her daughter could become a pilot, as she believed this was abnormal.

“My mom just explained well, it’s a male dominated industry but the women can do it too,” Garriock explains. “The lady had her own daughter who’d actually wanted to be a pilot when she was really young, but had been turned away from it because it was a very male dominated industry, and I never met that lady and I never met her daughter, but I hope if her daughter still wants to pursue a career in aviation, hopefully now she’s not like ‘Oh no, it’s just a male industry, I can’t get into it.’ Yeah, you can get into it. I did it.”