Air cadet women capture heart of local flight school
While this may have not been the first summer Harv’s Air Service has hosted the Canadian Air Cadets, the Steinbach flight school sure had a lot more laughs with the second group.
Chalk that up to the pep, creativity and old-fashioned chutzpah they possess, as well as one other fundamental difference. They’re an air cadet squad composed of 15 females, all aged between 17 and 18 years.
Operations manager Adam Penner had high praise for the bubbly bunch and their lively shenanigans. After being asked which group the young men of last year versus the young women of this year Harv’s Air staff enjoyed more, Penner said there was no comparison.
“Oh, the girls were a lot more fun, definitely,” declared a beaming Penner on Thursday night.
And he was quick to support his statement, noting the female cadets planned barbecues, special “theme” parties like “Christmas in July,” a trip to the beach and even a cheeky formal banquet designed to roast the Harv’s flight instructors, much to the instructors’ amusement.
The boys of last year, while enthusiastic about the program, were all business, Penner explained.
All 15 graduate
This year’s cadets obviously were able to fit in the important things too. On Thursday night at Harv’s Air Service, all 15 young women, amid friends and family from across Canada, graduated with their pilot’s licence.
Also attending were Provencher MP Vic Toews and Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen, withstanding the extreme heat and humidity to commend the impressive young women.
The cadets found the weather unusually hot as well, but they got an extra energy boost from the knowledge that they would finally possess the long-coveted badge after seven weeks of training.
“It was so incredible, getting our wings, finally, after working so hard, striving for them incredible,” Cadet Megan Hartwick emphasized during an interview Friday morning.
All 15 graduates, members of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, had to compete with more than 1,000 other cadets across Western Canada for the opportunity to come to Steinbach. It was a vigorous selection process consisting of exams, essays and interviews.
This was a stellar year for the girls, and Hartwick said she is honored that younger girls back home in her Calgary squadron look up to her.
“Aviation is such a male-dominated industry, so hopefully, other girls can look at us and think ‘they did, we can too.'”
Hartwick pointed out that it was an opportunity of a lifetime for the cadets.
“Normally you get a $90 bill for each time you go up, but here, we’ve spent practically every single day flying,” said an animated Hartwick.
But the intensive program she graduated from is not for the faint of heart. The cadet’s days began at 7:30 a.m. and ended at anywhere between five and sometimes 9 p.m.for six or sometime seven days a week for seven weeks straight.
‘So much power’
However, the 17-year-old said nothing could prepare her for the exhilaration she felt after completing her first solo cross-country flight. The jaunt took her from Steinbach to Lac du Bonnet, to Morden and back to Steinbach.
“It suddenly struck me, ‘I am flying an airplane, all by myself,’ I felt so much power.”
That adventure even inspired her instructor, Paul Thomas, and Adam Penner to wax poetic about her exploits in a “proclamation certificate”. The first part of it reads: Without disruption of air traffic, this fearless, forthright, indomitable and courageous individual did venture out into the wild blue yonder in a flying machine.
Thomas, a native of Scotland, had a few other thoughts on teaching three young women to fly, as opposed to the young men he taught last year.
“It was great it was like having three wives,” he said in a thick burr.
He quickly explained his comment to a Carillon reporter taken aback by the remark.
“They become the focus of your day, every day, and,” he paused with a mischievous grin, “I had to explain myself a lot.”
Hartwick was quick to joke that was because he doesn’t speak English he speaks Scottish. In just a few minutes, the teacher and student engaged in more comedic banter.
“We would always find time to get a laugh out of something…I think in being funny, you lighten the load a wee bit.”
She expressed her gratitude for everything the Steinbach flight centre offered.
“There were other camps (in Canada’s Air Cadet summer flight school program) but I think we got lucky and got the best one out of all of them…we all graduated last night but we owe it, completely, to our instructors I know I owe my wings to my instructor.”
When it was suggested to her that she and her self-appointed “Flight girls” cadet sisters would probably be missed, Hartwick seemed amused.
“We were so loud! It’ll sure be a lot more quiet around here now that we’re gone.”