Elsie MacGill Northern Lights awards to honour 8 recipients

The Northern Lights Aero Foundation (NLAF) board members have announced the eight recipients of the 2018 aviation and aerospace awards.

Closeup of three Elsie awards
This year the Northern Lights Aero Foundation is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Elsie Awards. NLAF Photo

Each year, the not-for-profit foundation honours outstanding women who have made a significant contribution in their field and who continue to lay the groundwork to attract other women to enter or excel in these industries. This year will be a very special occasion as we celebrate our 10th anniversary. To honour this milestone, we will also highlight the 41 past award winners since 2009, many of whom have continued to advance their careers and achievements since winning their awards.

The foundation’s awards program, called the “Elsie,” is named after aviation pioneer and human rights advocate Elsie Gregory MacGill, the world’s first female aircraft designer. MacGill graduated from the University of Toronto’s electrical engineering program in 1927 and later became pivotal in the design and production of the Hawker Hurricane in Canada during the Second World War. During her career, MacGill was appointed to the Canadian Royal Commission on the Status of Women and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.

“Elsie was a woman who was not very well known, yet made significant contributions toward the advancement of women in Canada,” said Joy Parker Blackwood, president of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation. “Our goal is to bring more recognition for her and all the women doing great work in aviation and aerospace in Canada. They are all awe-inspiring role models for our youth!”

The 2018 recipients are:

Pioneer Award: Maj Micky Colton joined the Canadian Forces as a pilot in March 1980 and graduated with wings in 1982. She was posted on the CC-130 Hercules at the following squadrons: 436 Sqn Trenton, 429 Sqn Winnipeg, 435 Sqn Edmonton, 424 Sqn Trenton (twice), 426 Sqn Trenton (twice).  She was also the air transport operations duty officer (dispatch job), Wing flight safety officer-Trenton and CC-130 standards and evaluation officer at Transport and Rescue Evaluation Team (TRSET) Trenton (twice).  Colton accumulated about 6,900 hours on the CC-130 before retiring. She retired from the Regular force in October 2011 and joined the Air Force Reserves the next day. She went to St. Lawrence College in 2013 and took the veterinary assistant certificate program. Colton just retired on May 30 as a Reservist duty operations officer for 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron- Trenton. She blazed a trail for women in the Canadian military!

Flight Operations Award: Julie Beverstein is assistant chief pilot, Recruitment and Retention, at Porter Airlines. She has been flying for 20 years, beginning her flying lessons at the Toronto Island Airport while at U of T doing her BSc; she then went to Seneca College to do the rest of her flight training. Beverstein was a flight instructor for five years before working for Air Georgian out of Toronto Pearson. She joined Porter Airlines in 2009. As the assistant chief pilot, Recruitment and Retention, she is an active line pilot and training captain. She leads the pilot hiring and all pilot recruitment initiatives at Porter, some of which include airline open houses; the Porter Airlines Early Connection program; Destination Porter, a partnership with 13 fight colleges coast to coast; as well as the Porter Star Award. She is one of the leads in Women Soar at Porter, an internal group focused on bridging the gender gap at Porter, and more specifically the flight deck. She also sits on the board of the Northern Lights Aero Foundation and is actively involved with the ATAC Fly Canada project.

Government Award: Emily Crombez has accomplished a great deal in the first 10 years of her aviation career, including being the first female to crew the Bombardier CL-415 waterbomber for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. She steps up to face challenges head on and inspire those around her. Growing up working on a family ginseng farm and neighbouring tobacco farms to fund her pilot licence, Crombez completed her training and had to wait until her 17th birthday to receive her private pilot licence. She graduated from Confederation College’s Aviation Flight Management program as class valedictorian and female athlete of the year. Following graduation, she flew as a bush pilot in northeastern Ontario, including three seasons flying the iconic de Havilland Beaver on floats. In 2011, Crombez established, and for the past six years chaired, the Sleeping Giant Chapter of the 99s. The following year, she was hired by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as a Twin Otter captain and was selected to take part in unique operations such as aerial rabies vaccinating and a polar bear survey. She was the recipient of the prestigious Vicki Cruse Emergency Maneuver Training Scholarship in 2013, where she completed an aerobatic and emergency manoeuvre course. In 2014, Crombez was the first female type rated on the CL-415 waterbomber in North America; she crewed the waterbomber for three seasons. Currently, she is flying the Boeing 737 for WestJet Airlines. She continues to give back to the aviation community through various roles as a Confederation College advisory board member and reunion planning committee member; 99s scholarship chair, session launch coordinator and mentor for the Professional Pilot Leadership Initiative. On her days off, she dedicates her time to sports, the family farm, travelling, and spending time at the cottage with her partner, Nate.

Business Award: Julie Mailhot started with Air Canada in 1987 as a customer service agent and has progressed up the organizational ladder. She was the first female flight dispatcher and eventually became the chief of operations, managing a group of 80 flight dispatchers. Mailhot has been promoted many times throughout her career and is currently the chief operating officer at Air Canada Express/Air Georgian. She has served many other organizations in various positions and has received the Art of Excellence Award from Air Canada. She is also president of the Dreams Take Flight Toronto Chapter, and has been involved with the charity for the last 21 years.

Education Award: Dr. Alexandra Kindrat is an educator and research scientist from Montreal. She performs research on mathematics instruction, as well as research related to micro-gravity at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and for the International Space Station. She is a private pilot and a long-time member of the Ninety-Nines. She holds degrees from McGill University (Montreal), the International Space University (France), and Concordia University (Montreal).  Along with her teaching duties in Montreal, Kindrat has been a member of the teaching faculty at NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholar Program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Moreover, she has also served as the co-chair at the International Astronautical Congress in the Human Space Endeavor’s Virtual Forum held in Naples, Italy, and in Cape Town, South Africa. Additionally, Kindrat has provided input as an educational consultant for the Space Advisory Board roundtable on Canada’s future in space at the Canadian Space Agency. She encourages her students to pursue studies leading to careers in STEM and continues to inspire her students to reach for the stars through sharing her own endeavours in aviation and aerospace.

Engineering Award: Niloofar Moradi earned her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Concordia University in 2010 and launched her career at Rolls-Royce Canada in the energy sector. Drawn to aviation and aerospace, Moradi later joined Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) as an aerodynamicist, where she was involved in all aspects of turbine aerodynamics – from research and airfoil design to engine development and production support. In 2016, concurrent with her design work at P&WC, Moradi earned her Master’s degree from École de Technologie Supérieure as a significant player in the creation of a multi-disciplinary design optimization system. She was responsible for creating a rapid three dimensional airfoil generator program that is now an integral part of this overall design system. Passionate and ambitious, Moradi has done design work for several P&WC engines including the PT6C-67A, powering the AW609 Tiltrotor. She currently works in the Turbine Mechanical Design department, where she designs and integrates turbine components. Moradi’s dedication to encouraging and creating new opportunities for the next generation of engineers keeps her ever engaged with the engineering community. She is a member of the Industrial Advisory Board of the MIA Engineering department of Concordia University and the Aerospace sub-committee of the Palais des Congrès de Montréal. Through her involvement with Women Leadership Committee of P&WC, she continues to work with charitable organizations such as Dress for Success, L’envol and Operation Christmas Child. In addition to her work and volunteer activities, she is an avid traveller and a passionate scuba diver.

Rising Star Award: Larissa Chiu received her private pilot’s licence through the Air Cadet program in 2016, and now volunteers her time flying in her squadron’s familiarization program for young cadets. She is currently attending the University of British Columbia in the Bachelor of Science program and is on the executive of UBC’s aviation club. She is working on her night rating and commercial pilot’s licence. She has received many awards along the way for such a young person, including numerous Top Cadet awards, a Royal Conservatory of Music Scholarship, and Duke of Edinburgh Gold Medal Award. She volunteers for Girls Fly Too events, is a mentor at her high school, and also volunteers as a STEM ambassador for Science Expo. Last year, she entered into a partnership with Hamilton Watch Company, which generously supports her flight training by donating $1,000 through her flight school in exchange for her flying Hamilton’s top employees!

Rising Star Award: Katie Gwozdecky is a private pilot and graduate of the University of Toronto in mechanical engineering. During her time in school, she fiercely pursued her passion for space exploration and joined the University of Toronto Aerospace Team (UTAT). With UTAT, she built sounding rockets, and designed and manufactured components for small satellites, among many other technical endeavours. Her major contribution to the team was leading UTAT as director of space systems to pass a student levy, raising nearly half a million dollars to fund the launch of the first amateur satellite from U of T, HERON MKII, in 2019. This levy is the first of its kind in Canada, enabling high volume fundraising for student teams. She leaves UTAT with a legacy of dedication, perseverance and teamwork. Other initiatives include a speakers’ bureau, mentorship program, and a scholarship program. Her passion for space engineering has led her to pursue her MASc at the Space Flight Lab at the University of Toronto in September.

The 2018 Gala Award Dinner will be held on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Sheraton Parkway Hotel and Suites Conference Centre in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Tickets go on sale in July. For additional information, visit www.northernlightsaerofoundation.com or call Anna Pangrazzi at (416) 399-5247.



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