World’s Most Female-Pilot Friendly Airport

Gord Mahaffy


It wasn’t exclusively a COPA event, but COPA members were there in force on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010.Flight 70 and COPA Flight 44 - Buttonville provided 13 airplanes and pilots along with 15 ground support volunteers. And what was the event?

A short while ago it became known that the Oshawa Airport was the second most female-pilot friendly airport in the world.

(Definition - A female friendly airport is an airport that has introduced women into flying by offering non-pilot women the opportunity to experience flight in a light aircraft. In other words a FAM flight).

COPA member, Lesley Page, a pilot and aircraft owner, accepted the challenge and organized a group of volunteers to challenge for the number one spot. She organized a large scale operation of introductory flights for non-pilot women of all ages.

It is hard to give individual credit to everyone because there were so many volunteers and supporters involved.The following are just a few of the people that made this event successful.

Newly elected Oshawa Councillor and COPA member, Bruce Wood, rented a C-172 and spent the morning flying several women that had never been in a small aircraft before.

Oshawa mayor, John Henry, arrived in person to address and congratulate everyone who was taking part.

Radio stations CKDO and KX96, who broadcast from the terminal building at the Oshawa airport, provided free announcements throughout the previous week.

Airport manager, Steve Wilcox, gave up his Saturday morning to personally supervise his crew and made sure all airport facilities were working and available.

John Donaldson, who is an active member of the Buttonville Flying Club and a Transport Canada inspector in “Systems Safety” volunteered to help document all of the participants so Oshawa could receive full credit.

The media was well represented by reporters from the Oshawa Times and a Rogers cable-TV video team.This was quite appropriate since the videographer was also a woman and actually accompanied Lesley in her C-172 as two young ladies were introduced to flying for the first time.This segment later aired on Rogers cable-TV.

The operation kept air traffic controllers busy all Saturday morning as they kept a close watch on the participating aircraft. This was well appreciated since many of the aircraft came from Buttonville and were not operating in their familiar area. So a well deserved “thank you” to controllers Pete, Glen, Chad, and Shane.

One other volunteer worthy of special mention is a 17-year-old man.Charles Phillips arrived with the Buttonville volunteers and marshalled the participants to and from the airplanes on the ramp. Charles is a licensed Private Pilot but is not old enough to hold a full Ontario driver’s license.

In the end 118 non-pilot women experienced the thrill of flying and Oshawa recaptured the lead for the most female-friendly airport in the world. Since this is a hotly contested title it is hard to predict which airport in the world will eventually wear the crown. But two things are obvious: one, when Oshawa accepted the challenge, COPA was there to answer the call: and two: the real winners in this contest were the women who experienced flight from a pilots perspective and in so doing may have changed their lives for the better.