First of all, we’re going to start with a
government award: Emily Crombez. Growing up on a family farm near Tillsonburg, Ontario, Emily watched the low swooping dives of the crop dusters
over the neighboring tobacco fields. She saw adventure and challenge and fixed on
her life path: flying. On top of her own family farm work, Emily worked in the
tobacco fields through high school summers to finance her flying lessons
soloing at 15 and completing her private pilot license requirements by age 16. A
girl of high energy throughout this time, she garnered academic, leadership, and
sports awards, and played on two competitive fast ball teams. Emily was
focused on becoming a bush pilot and for higher education aviation, chose the
highly-rated Confederation College in Thunder Bay, which had a specialty in
teaching float flying. During her college program years, Emily tutored fellow
students in math, physics, and ground school, played on the fast ball team
among other sports, achieved a 4.0 grade point average and was chosen class
valedictorian and female athlete of the year. In addition, Emily received the SUCCI
(Student Union of Confederation College, Inc.) undergraduate award and the
SUCCI seat endowed award for exceptional leadership and teamwork, and the national-level Garfield Weston Merit Scholarship for good citizenship and the
drive for success in a chosen field. Then in 2007, at just 19 years old,
Emily plunged into the life of a working bush pilot in Northern Ontario. For four
seasons, she was on the dock at dawn often having to de-ice her favorite
aircraft (the de Havilland beaver) and starting a daily round of everything
from handling propane cylinders, gas cans, readying lumber and gear for transport,
checking cabins, hauling out smelly garbage, doing maintenance and repairs… And here she is seen finishing a dock. And here she is welding a leaky boat. And, oh yes,
flying parties of hunters and fishermen in and out of the bush. Not so different
from the long days and hard manual labor of the farm. Emily could handle it. And
Emily silenced many a hunters comment about refusing to fly with a girl by
greasing it or making a smooth landing on the water, followed by offloading a
180 pound propane cylinder by herself. During those four years,
Emily was working toward her ultimate career goal: she wanted to fly a water
bomber. She made the jump to the IFR world in 2011, flying a Metro III in
northwestern Ontario for Bearskin Airlines and during this time, Emily was
headquartered in Thunder Bay and there established the Sleeping Giant chapter
of the Ninety-Nines. In 2012, five years after graduation
Emily was chosen by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for
the position of captain flying a Twin Otter. This aerial support position
entailed flying firefighters, equipment, and freight to remote airports and –
skills aside – required a toughness of spirit and Emily, as the job required, moved
from place to place living in bunk houses and motels. In 2013,
Emily was the recipient of the Amelia Earhart Vicky Cruise Scholarship
Award for emergency maneuver training. And in 2014, Emily realized her dream,
becoming a copilot on a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Bombardier CL-415 water bomber. Emily was the first woman aircrew with the MNRF on this aircraft, and the first female in North America with a
Bombardier CL-415 type rating. In battling forest fires, she found herself
flying on the edge. Apart from the heat turbulence, smoke, and lack of visibility,
Emily says “you are heavy and slow with a high angle of attack, scooping up as many loads as you can in a short time… all the things you
were taught to avoid in flying school.” This job has a big requirement for team
players as crews fly together for complete seasons. As a senior captain at
the Ministry’s Dryden, Ontario base put it: “When Emily showed up, it truly was the
old boys club. But she took it all in her stride. So much of this job is outside
the cockpit, and Emily fit right in.” While headquartered in Dryden, Emily
established two girls fast ball teams coaching girls for play at a competitive
level, ultimately leading to a number of educational scholarships for the players.
In 2017, Emily started a new job with the ministry as a King Air 350 captain,
flying the Lieutenant Governor, the Premier, and the Cabinet for their
government work in the province. But Emily was ready to fly the next leg of
her career, and she is presently a first officer with Westjet on a Boeing 737,
and is very much enjoying her work. Always a major volunteer, Emily is an
advisory board member for Confederation College’s aviation flight management
program. She’s a Ninety-Nines Professional Pilot
Leadership Initiative (PPLI) session launch coordinator. She is the 99s
Sleeping Giant chapter Amelia Earhart scholarship chair. And recently, she
signed on as a mentor with Elevate Aviation, an organization aimed at
recruiting more women into aviation. She’s one of the few women to navigate
years of bush flying so successfully and one of the few women to have flown a
water bomber, let alone the Bombardier CL-415. Emily Crombez: 10 years of
exceptional flying and exceptional leadership in the cause of women in
aviation and ladies and gentlemen Emily Crombez, for the Government award. And presenting her trophy is Elizabeth
(Liz) Wieben, the 2013 Elsie Award winner in the Education category and former
colleague at Confederation College. Congratulations. A spark has to exist to
fuel the effort, commitment, and sacrifices required to do something
greatly. That spark, for many, comes in the form of enthusiastic beginnings, from
encouragers, facilitators, and motivators. My success, in part, is attributed to my
family who committed to making sure schedules, driving, and distance need not
be a barrier to achieving dreams. I’ve been fired once in my life… by my dad. And
I think it only lasted about five minutes and he demanded I get back to
the fields and drive the tractor. He still cringes when I hop on a tractor,
even though I fly a multi-million dollar airplane. My sister made the trek up to
Gogama to work during high school. She quickly decided she would pursue
university over bush pilot. We lived in an old barn, converted into an apartment.
It was infested with mice, the smell of rotting bear bait meat came up through
the floors. Even grandma made the 10-hour drive to Foleyet, to bring me fresh
fruit and vegetables, which of course meant she would come on a fly-in fishing
adventure. We out-fished the guys and were reeling in the walleye so fast that
grandma had to learn to bait her own hook. I have had a great many mentors and
educators who enthusiastically contributed to the development of my
knowledge, skills, and career through the creation of a safe environment where I
could grow and thrive. And lastly, the industry females, through their own enthusiasm, inspired women like me to consider taking hold of
a dream in flight. I am grateful to celebrate the women today that
contribute an enormous influence in the aviation and aerospace sector and have
inspired many in their respective career paths. This event illustrates profound
evidence of fostering openness, transparency, inclusiveness, and respect
in our industry. I am honored to be selected to be able
to use this award as a pursuit of continued diversity in aviation.
Certainly, many of us in this room tonight – myself included – are not immune
to adversity when pursuing our career goals. However, in adversity, we are given the opportunity to challenge the status quo,
build our character, and ultimately succeed by overcoming the challenge. In
some instances, strength of character and spirit must also be matched by physical
strength. I wasn’t going to let lifting heavy loads of outpost camp supplies
into the back of a de Havilland beaver day after day get in the way of my
aspirations. I have come to know that we are not destined to succeed; rather, we
require grit and determination to do so. I am honored to represent all females in
aviation, who are determined to practice their craft, strive to lead, and
enthusiastically pursue their passions. Thank you. you