Successful event!

Thank you everyone who attended Chics Take Flight 2013 (especially those of you who persevered through Google Maps’ incorrect location information of the Innisfail Airport! Central Alberta Gliding Club has already contacted Google about revising the listing for the airport.) Although drop-in traffic declined from last year, we saw a whopping 70% increase in paid flights, and any event where we can get more people in the air is a success in my books. Chief Flight Instructor John M. expressed satisfaction yesterday evening with the safety of the event as well – no small accomplishment given how busy the airspace was. We had the Stearman biplane, 4 gliders, 2 towplanes, a jump plane, and dozens of skydivers per hour all sharing the same area and using runways just feet apart. Thanks to the professionalism and skill of all the pilots, we observed no conflicts.

Thanks again to attendees, vendors, sponsors, and of course volunteers – Chics Take Flight is becoming a major event in the Alberta soaring world, and it wouldn’t be possible without all of you.

Stay tuned for event photos soon.

Don’t worry (about the weather forecast), be happy

Chics Take Flight 2013 is a GO for August 10! The rain is not predicted to arrive until the evening, but the building clouds in the afternoon is actually just the kind of weather that can make for longer soaring flight. So arrive early to get your name on the list!

Besides, this is Alberta and we’re pretty sure the forecast will change between now and tomorrow anyway. Last year’s Chics Take Flight started out cloudy and raining the night before, but the day was bright blue sunny skies. We fully expect this year’s weather to follow suit!

See you tomorrow!

50% off intro flights! Only 5 available!

Thanks to a very recent and very generous donation from Walmart Sylvan Lake, we’ve got some really exciting news that will hopefully enable more of you to fly! The Walmart representative requested that their donation go towards discounted flights for young people, so we are very pleased to make the following announcement:

The first five young women, ages 14-21, who arrive at Innisfail Airport and sign up for an intro flight this Saturday will receive 50% off the cost of the flight. That’s right – an introductory flight for only $50!

Why are we limiting the discount to young women? Well, part of our mandate is to promote aviation as a hobby and possibly a career to women, so it makes sense to focus on younger people. Younger people also tend to have less buying power, but if you’re 14 and have a paper route, you can probably afford this flight.

Perhaps most importantly, if you fit into this age range, you are both old enough to fly and young enough to qualify for a variety of Soaring Association of Canada bursaries and incentive programs that will keep you in the air, even through post-secondary school. So come on out and see if soaring is for you – gliding on a youth bursary is a very affordable way to follow your highest-flying dreams. You might just be flying airplanes before you learn to drive a car. :)

Get to know Judy

Judy was the committee chair and head organizer for Chics Take Flight 2012. For 2013, she’s taken on a supporting role.

1. What is your aviation background?

I’ve always been fascinated with planes and flying but never thought I could do it.

2. What got you interested in soaring?

A picnic trip with my husband to Sheep River Falls on July 1, 2010 with an impromptu stop at Cu-Nim Gliding Club changed my life forever. I never thought that I could learn to fly and find so much joy. It is absolutely challenging to learn but I can honestly say that I have never had a bad flight. Short, yes, but never bad. To see an eagle soaring below you in a thermal or share a thermal with a couple of hawks is very special. Flying along in a wave is an experience that words can’t describe. To see and meet other women who share this passion is extraordinary.

Judy in flight

Judy in flight

3. Tell us about a memorable flight. (If different from the answer to #2.)

I have had so many memorable flights it’s hard to choose one that stands out. That said, the one that sticks in my brain is after last year’s Chics Take Flight. An instructor and I were in the club’s new DG1000 and were flying in formation in a wave alongside a couple of other members in the ASK21. Another pilot had left their iPhone in the cockpit of the DG, so my instructor and I took advantage of the opportunity to document this flight with pictures. I recall looking down at the green hills below me and the purple hues in the western sky as the sun was beginning to set. The few clouds were so close I could almost reach out to touch them. After over an hour we decided to land, more for me out of fatigue than because of change in flying conditions. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

4. Have you ever been scared while flying?

Landing scares me. So little time to put it all together and there is only one chance to do it. You can’t go around and start over again.

5. Why do you think there aren’t many women in aviation?

I think women perceive it still as a man’s “game” and they can’t do it and be successful. The expense is probably another reason and family life takes precedence over everything else. I’ve also heard women comment that it is too scary. Driving in the city is scary. When talking to women, I assure them that it is very safe. It is not an extreme sport. Also, there seems to be a perception that aviation is just about being a pilot. Aviation has many facets. I know of women in my chapter of Women in Aviation International who aren’t pilots but are involved in other aspects. One works with Vintage Wings of Canada, a couple more are in avionics, one is a flight attendant, one works with ATC and we even have an 79 year old lady with a PhD in Psychology who is none of those but just loves to fly in “big planes”. She loves socializing with us and enjoys listening to us when we talk “prop talk”.
Lastly, when I think about those women who ferried planes overseas during the war, it was a remarkable feat! But we don’t hear much about that. I think, for whatever reason, we haven’t done a good enough job to increase the awareness among women that we can do this and do it well.

Judy and some other pilot chics

Judy and some other pilot chics

6. Why should there be more?

Women can contribute tremendously to aviation in many ways. Instruction is one area that we need women. We think and learn differently than men and sometimes there can be a conflict which may result in frustration for both parties. In my case, it can go either way. All the instructors at my club are all men and there a few that I have trouble learning from which is challenging for both of us. There are a couple who really connect with me. My husband used to be a flight instructor and he has been teaching me some things on a flight sim we have. I totally get it with him. One story he shared with me was there was an older woman (50s+ and a nurse – like me) who was learning to fly. All the instructors gave up on her because she just wasn’t catching on. My husband took on the challenge and she was able to learn from him. She got her license and went on to join the ’99s. She is an inspiration to me and I would love to meet her someday if I could ever find her. She is not the only one. I have met a remarkable woman who is also an inspiration. She is Val Deschamps this year’s Chairperson for Chics Take Flight. I want to be like her when I grow up!

7. How long have you been a pilot?

About 2 years…still a student but had to take a sabbatical this year because of “life” getting in the way of flying.

8. What is the most important safety aspect, in your opinion?

Be alert. Be on your game. Check, check and check again. Don’t ignore that niggling feeling in your gut that something is amiss. Starting over is not wrong.

Email problems and how we’re fixing them

Our little “contact us” form has, sadly, been discovered by spambots, and they’ve been using it to flood our email account with garbage. I suppose it was really only a matter of time. (Perhaps this means we’ve “arrived” as a website.) This means two things:

1) If you want to email us, you will have to do so directly, from your own email account, until I can install a more secure form. In order to avoid further attracting bots, I won’t write out the full email address here, but it’s a Gmail address, and the name before the “at” symbol is “chicstakeflight”.

2) Many of you have tried to contact us using the form and have not received a reply. We’re really sorry about this! We should have been checking the spam filter all along. I’ve alerted the rest of the Chics organizing committee to this problem. We’re going to go through the spam folder right away and pull out all the emails that appear legitimate. However, Gmail automatically deletes spam after 30 days, so if you emailed us before Canada Day and didn’t hear from us, your original email is gone. Could you kindly email us again, directly this time, so that we won’t lose your contact information in the junk folder? Thanks!

All this frustration calls for a silly video. Please enjoy this classic from Monty Python:
The SPAM skit, of course!

Get to know Carol

Carol is a valuable member of the Chics organizing committee, and is a flight instructor at Central Alberta Gliding Club. You’ll meet her this year at the flight line.

1. What is your aviation background?
I have always been interested in airplanes, and when I was younger I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. I started out university in aeronautical engineering, but eventually graduated in materials engineering. I still had a love for airplanes, and eventually got a job as a Structures Engineer for Canadian Airlines in Vancouver. I worked for Canadian Airlines and then Air Canada for a total of 6 years. During that time I met my future husband (a glider instructor) and learned to fly gliders. I took several years off from “professional” aviation to have 2 children, but still continued on with the glider flying. I have been working for the last two and half years as a Methods Engineer at Viking Air in Calgary. Viking Air owns the type certificate for the Twin Otter, and we have put the Twin Otter back into production.

Carol flying "2 Juliet"

Carol flying “2 Juliet”

2. What got you interested in soaring?
I had always been interested in aircraft and soaring. When younger, I wanted to be an Air Cadet to have the opportunity to fly in a glider, however there were only Army Cadets in the town where I grew up. (I am a proud supporter of the Cadet program and learned many skills as an Army Cadet) When I met my future husband, who was a glider instructor, I absolutely wanted to get out and try it as soon as possible.

3. Tell us about a memorable flight.
My most memorable flight was a cross-country flight I attempted in 2009. I was attempting to fly a 300km triangle for an internationally recognized soaring badge. The day was challenging and several times I considered abandoning the task I had declared. I persevered and finally got to the point where I thought I was going to make it. The day had been long, and in soaring, the conditions die out as the sun gets lower. I eventually landed my glider only 4km short of the field, so did not complete the task. That flight lasted six hours and forty-two minutes and although I did not reach my goal, I learned a lot about soaring that day.

4. Have you ever been scared while flying?
My scariest moment was soaring in Southern Alberta and landing my glider up the side of a hill in an off-field landing. I hadn’t realized how steep the terrain was in the area. I now pay a lot more attention to the area beneath me and try not to put myself in a situation where I need to be lucky to have it work out.

5. Why do you think there aren’t many women in aviation? 6. Why should
there be more?
Aviation has traditionally been male dominated. Most women aren’t interested in mechanical/how-it-works types of things. The beauty of soaring is that you don’t need to know a lot of mechanical parts and pieces. It has been called “aerial ballet” because the gliders dance around the sky, rather than defeat it with noise and fuel.

7. How long have you been a pilot?
I started flying gliders in 2000, and earned my glider pilot license in 2001. I earned my glider flight instructor rating in 2008. I have participated in several Provincial/Western Contests and flew in the Canadian National Soaring Contest in 2009.

8. What is the most important safety aspect, in your opinion?
When flying within 1000′ of the ground, you need to have a plan and execute your plan correctly. The landing is the most critical part of the flight and it absolutely cannot depend on luck or hope. Learning to fly a circuit correctly is the most important skill you learn as a pilot.


Not to give away as a door prize though (although that would have been amazing). MGM Ford in Red Deer has donated use of a van for the day, to ferry you from the Registration area to the flight line. This will come in super handy if the wind shifts and we have to use the far end of the runway! So thanks to MGM Ford for making sure we can access our airplanes in comfort!

We have so many amazing sponsors right now and I’d just like to take a minute to thank them. The following companies and organizations have donated everything from frisbees to, well, a car (that we’re borrowing):

  • 7-11 Innisfail
  • Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Bank of Montreal
  • Collicutt Centre in Red Deer
  • Genivar
  • Growers Direct Flowers
  • Kerry Towle, MLA for Innisfail Sylvan Lake
  • London Drugs
  • Mary Kay Cosmetics
  • MGM Ford (Red Deer)
  • Supreme Office Products Ltd
  • The Mixing Spoon
  • The Worx salon
  • We’re going to be handing out swag and giving away really cool door prizes all day, like spa-themed gift baskets, clothing, shoulder bags, and even some passes to local attractions. Whoa! Our sponsors sure are generous!

    (Edit: less than a day after I post this and already I have to add Gleniffer Lake Golf and Country Club and Central Alberta Co-op to the list! What terrific community support!)

    Get to know Val

    I have always had an interest in flying. Several years ago I finally had the opportunity to realize my dream of flight and I found that I enjoyed gliding in sailplanes. Now I am a licensed glider pilot, President of the Central Alberta Gliding Club, and a member of several aviation organizations such as: the Soaring Association of Canada, Women in Aviation International – Calgary, and the Women Soaring Pilots Association.

    I am also on the planning committee for Chics Take Flight, a women’s flying event organized for August 10th, 2013 at Innisfail Airport that is open to the public and for everyone to attend.

    The event that captured my heart took place in the late fall of 2007 near Pincher Creek at the Cowley Fall Wave Camp when I was invited to ride as a passenger in one of the gliders. The pilot took me on a spectacular flight that lasted 3 and 1/2 hours. The soaring conditions enabled the glider to ascend to an altitude over 18,500 feet. The view of the Rocky Mountains was breath-taking. The only sounds were that of the air flowing over the wings and the rhythmic sound of the pulsating oxygen system. We soared between the clouds as they were visibly forming near us. The sun was shining casting shadows on the clouds below, creating rainbows and halos. We flew as far south as we were legally allowed to go to just north of the Canada/US border, then headed north 150 km, soaring above Waterton National Park, alongside the Livingstone Range catching the ‘wave’ activity all the way to the south end of Chain Lakes Provincial Park. When the soaring conditions became weak the glider descended low several times, which meant we had to prepare for a potential outfield landing. I trusted in the skills of the pilot in being able to read the conditions and find lift where there no visible signs. When we arrived back to the Cowley airfield, we were cold and tired. The joy of that flight will last my life time.

    According to an article in the January / February 2012 issue of Canadian Aviator entitled “Welcoming More Women to Aviation” there are 3,970 women in Canada who hold some type of pilot licence. That is one in 4000 women where for men it is 1 in 270. Another statistic I recently heard quoted is that approximately 6% of the female population is involved in aviation one way or another.

    We are equally as capable as men. There is no valid reason why we shouldn’t.

    Traditionally the majority of women stay in the home to raise their families. Some do not have the expendable income to take the training to enjoy it as a sport. When those circumstances change many women look elsewhere for fulfillment. Some are not aware that so many aviation career options are available. Soaring is a great choice because of the support you receive from other members of the soaring community.

    Aviation enthusiasts, of any kind, share a similar passion and easily become friends, the camaraderie is phenomenal. I had already been coming out to the Central Alberta Gliding Club for several years so most people already knew me. I was welcomed and encouraged by all. When I joined the club in 2008 it already had several female members, but they came and went as their life happened and priorities changed. One female member is a flight instructor. I considered it a privilege that I was able to train under her guidance; she is still my mentor.

    It’s known that men and women have different learning capabilities. Although the Soaring Association of Canada Flight Instructor Course is standardized, the delivery of the information is what makes the difference. Diverse styles of learning and teaching mean that some instructors will fit you better than others. She had gone through the same training and could easily relate to the problems I experienced. I have also had some awesome male instructors.

    I trained on weekends and holidays during the short soaring season for two years. In August of 2010 I wrote the Transport Canada Glider Pilot Exam then received my Glider Pilot License shortly after that. Most people are able to complete their training in 50 to 100 flights, some even sooner. The flight instructors in most Canadian clubs volunteer their time to teach you the necessary skills and decision making processes. Club training gliders contain two seats, one for the instructor in the back and one for the student in the front. They are built tough and can withstand the effects of training flights. After you have proven your skills the instructors will sign you off to go on solo flights. From there it is only the beginning. You can go as far as you want to. Experienced pilots participate in events and contests held worldwide. Flights can last over 12 hours and gliders can travel over 1500 km in the right conditions.

    My scariest moment was on my very first training flight when the instructor let me have control of the glider for the first time for take-off. With my limited experience the glider seemed to be veering over to the side of the runway and I could not correct it fast enough for my comfort level so I quickly let the instructor take control. In hindsight it was only a minor deviation. Since then I have taken many flights where I have had to extend my personal comfort level in order to succeed. But that is part of soaring. You can compare it to the first time you drove a vehicle. You were nervous and probably made some minor mistakes but with training and practice your skills improved and eventually you received your drivers license. Same applies to gliding. The biggest difference is that there are far fewer planes in the skies than there are vehicles on the road.

    Chics Take Flight is a special, one-day event being held on Saturday August 10th, where women can explore what soaring has to offer as a hobby and may discover potential aviation careers. It has been organized by ladies from three Alberta gliding clubs, with the support of those clubs and the Alberta Soaring Council.
    The Central Alberta Gliding Club is hosting the 2nd annual Chics Take Flight event. The club is located 8 kilometers northwest of Innisfail on highway 54. Just look for the posted signs.
    Activities run all day from 8 am through 4 pm and will include:
    – flight simulators – for those who want to try gliding without leaving the ground
    – a meet and greet with prominent female pilots and guest speakers
    – introductory glider flights at special event discounts
    – static displays of gliders and other aircraft
    – displays from various organizations including CASARA, Aviation Alberta, Harvard Historical Society, Women in Aviation International and others
    – lunch will be available
    – prizes to be drawn for

    Whether you’re already a pilot, an aviation fan, curious about sailplanes, or simply wish to try something new and exciting, there is something for you at Chics Take Flight.

    Air-to-air photos of lead organizer Val

    Check out the spectacular photography in the latest issue of Red Deer Living!

    Red Deer Living Summer 2013

    That’s Val flying her sailplane over the Innisfail Airport – where we’ll all meet in just over a month! (Every sentence in this post so far ends with an exclamation mark! As you may have guessed, I am pretty excited about Chics Take Flight!)

    The article has more beautiful pictures both in the air and on the ground, as well as Val’s very eloquent description of soaring. You can learn more about Val soon, as I’ll be starting a series of “get to know the Chics staff” blog posts this month.