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Ninety-nines bring women to new heights

Local NewsNinety-nines bring women to new heights

Around 50 people had the opportunity to take to the sky for the Ninety-Nines’ (Maple Leaf chapter) second annual Canadian Let’s Fly Now! First Flight program at the Brantford Municipal Airport on Saturday, June 22, 2024.

The Ninety-Nines is the international organization of women pilots that promote the advancement of aviation through education, scholarships, and mutual support while honouring its unique history and sharing the passion for flight.

“When you sign up with the Ninety-Nines you can sign up as a student pilot, a private pilot or whatever license you’re at; Or if you’re not a pilot, you can join us as a Friend of the Ninety-Nines,” said Cailyx Madensky, an organizer for the event and chairperson for the Ninety-Nines Maple Leaf chapter. “Within the organization, there’s tons of scholarships that are available for different things and we also do different events throughout the year so for example, we’ll do a paint night, or we’ll go tubing, partake in a flying scavenger hunt or we’ll even just have fun get togethers. It’s great because we all love flying and it’s just nice to have a community.”

One woman smiles for the camera before heading up into the air during the Ninety-Nines Maple Leafs chapter’s second annual Let’s Fly Now! event on Saturday, June 22, 2024. Photo courtesy Cailyx Madensky.

Throughout Saturday’s event, nearly 50 participants split up and took turns going up in six single-engine aircrafts for a roughly 40-minute flight around Brantford, Springvale and Waterford.

“We had six planes and six pilots so we were able to take around 50 passengers up for their first introductory flight free of charge. Some flights had one passenger, others had three and it all just depended on the weight and balance needed for each plane,” said Madensky. “During the flight they had the chance to ask questions and afterwards if they were interested in joining the Ninety-Nines, we also helped them with that. They also got a certificate for their first flight and their own personal log book as well as a goodie bag with the phonetic alphabet, an airplane keychain, plane stickers and a few other special items.”

Participants listen in for a safety briefing during the Ninety-Nines Maple Leafs chapter’s second annual Let’s Fly Now! event on Saturday, June 22, 2024. Photo courtesy Cailyx Madensky.

After joining the Ninety-Nines a couple years ago, Madensky partnered with co-planner and Ninety-Nines member, Rita Richter, and the two made history by bringing the Let’s Fly Now! program to Canada for the first time ever.  

“I went to post-secondary school for Aviation Management at Algonquin College where I volunteered for a couple similar events like this one. I’ve always loved volunteering and aviation, and promoting females in aviation has really become my passion,” said Madenksy. “After college, I moved back home to Mount Pleasant and while I knew there were some airports that run a similar program, they’re an hour or two away from us and I wanted to bring the program closer to home so that people in the community could get involved.”

In 2021, Madensky and Richter began planning for the event and were finally able to get the event up in the air in 2023.

One youngster smiles for the camera before heading into the air during the Ninety-Nines Maple Leafs chapter’s second annual Let’s Fly Now! event on Saturday, June 22, 2024. Photo courtesy Cailyx Madensky.

Madensky said that although she started flying in 2016 when she was in Grade 12, had a program like Let’s Fly Now! existed back then, she would have gotten started earlier.

“I’ve never actually been on a commercial aircraft where I’ve had a female pilot so not seeing that representation can really take away your self-confidence, and it takes away the feel of it being possible,” she said. “I really wish that I had an event like this when I was growing up because I didn’t get into flying until I was going into Grade 12. I would have started as soon as I could had I known that this was an actual thing I could get involved in to test it out.”

A participant shows off her first flight certificate during the Ninety-Nines Maple Leafs chapter’s second annual Let’s Fly Now! event on Saturday, June 22, 2024. Photo courtesy Cailyx Madensky.

With the program available to females [and males] ages 12 and up, Madensky said that the program exists to share the thrill and excitement of being up in the air.

“I know for me, it’s different every time you fly and I love that feeling of being free when you’re up in the air. People say that you’re like a bird when you’re up there, but you literally are because you’re in a plane and you’re flying amongst them,” she said. “On those flights where you’re alone, you’re coming home after a long flight and the air is calm, it’s almost surreal and it just never gets old. It’s always the most amazing feeling and I want other people to experience it. This whole program is designed to give these women their first introductory flight and to ignite that same spark.”

Volunteers smile for the camera during the Ninety-Nines Maple Leafs chapter’s second annual Let’s Fly Now! event on Saturday, June 22, 2024.

After another successful year of running the event, Madensky said they couldn’t have put the program on without the help of their volunteers and that she’s excited to see how the program will continue to evolve in the years to come.

“In total we had around 25 volunteers including the pilots for today’s event. Because we’re a non-for-profit, this year we held a fundraising golf tournament to help out with costs and the Brantford Airport donated two planes for the day but what’s great is that half of the pilots brought their own planes, paid for insurance and wear-and-tear, as well as fuel costs. Some of these pilots were spending hundreds or thousands of dollars just in fuel cost for this day to happen so we are just so grateful for everyone that helped us and we can’t wait to see all the new faces that come next year,” Madensky said.

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