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The Northern Lights Aero Foundation is pleased to announce the 2023 recipients of the prestigious “Elsie” award, recognizing Canadian women who have made a significant contribution to aviation or aerospace.
The award, named after aviation pioneer and human rights activist, Elsie Gregory MacGill, recognizes outstanding women across seven categories.
“Once again, eight incredible women are being recognized by our organization. We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments at our new, larger venue, The Pearson Convention Centre,” says Kathleen Lang, President, Northern Lights Aero Foundation.
The 2023 recipients are:
Business Award – Cathy Press
Cathy Press, CEO of Chinook Helicopters, holds both Fixed Wing and Rotary Wing ATPLs, Class 1 Instructor and Pilot Examiner ratings. In 1997, she became the first female helicopter flight instructor in Canada. She has received numerous awards including: Elevate Aviation’s ‘Inspire’ award; Bank of Montreal’s Innovation and Global Growth Award, and, Enterprise Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award. In 2019, she was recognized as one of Canada’s “Most Powerful Women” by the Women’s Executive Network. Cathy is actively involved with various industry organizations and serves on multiple boards. She has recently expanded European training partnerships in Canada and is leading the revolutionary “Virtual Simulator” project at Chinook. With a remarkable background in aviation, Cathy’s leadership has driven Chinook’s growth, expanded its training programs and established strategic partnerships. Her accomplishments have made her a role model and catalyst for change in the industry.
Education Award – Dr. Joana Rocha
Dr. Joana Rocha is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Carleton University, in Ottawa, Ontario. She joined the department in 2012 as an Assistant Professor, became an Associate Professor in July 2017, and a Full Professor in July of 2023. Prior to joining Carleton, Dr. Rocha was a visiting researcher at NASA Langley Research Centre and the National Institute of Aerospace in Virginia. She received her PhD and MASc degrees at the University of Victoria. Her research focuses on aircraft noise prediction, design and optimization of aircraft structures for noise reduction, aero-acoustics, turbulence-flow induced noise, structural acoustics and turbulence modelling. She and her research team have collaborated with Bombardier and the NRC. She has received several research awards including a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Discovery Grant. Joana is a past Associate Chair of Graduate Studies in her department. She has participated in talks and outreach events, encouraging women to pursue engineering and sciences.
Engineering Award – Heather Beaton
Heather Beaton is a Fellow in Bombardier’s Aircraft Design & Development engineering organization, providing leadership and decision-making to critical strategic, safety and certification decisions across Bombardier sites and platforms. She has been at Bombardier since 1988 and has held various engineering positions in their product development teams over the years, including product planning and new aircraft studies for new and derivative models with Bombardier’s Advanced Design and Strategic Technology teams. This includes development, flight test, certification and continued airworthiness of the CRJ series, Challenger 300 & 600 series, Global Express G5/6500 and G7500 series and the C Series/A220. She has been Knowledge Owner for the control systems knowledge domain and Chair of the SAE International A-6A Systems Integration Committee. Heather founded the Bombardier’s Women in Engineering affinity group, providing networking, mentoring and project opportunities.
Flight Operations Award – Captain Kristin Long
Kristin Long is a Captain and Standards Pilot on the B737 at WestJet Airlines. She began her aviation career as a flight attendant while attending university. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of British Columbia and an Aviation Diploma from the University of the Fraser Valley and Coastal Pacific Aviation. Prior to the airline, her flying experience included passenger, cargo and medevac flights to remote communities throughout Manitoba and northwestern Ontario. To date, she has logged over 15,000 hours. Kristin is active in many organizations and boards, including Women of Winnipeg (WoW) and the inaugural board of the RCAF Foundation. She is the founding president of Northern Spirit Chapter of Women in Aviation, Committee Chair of the annual Girls in Aviation Day and is an honorary Colonel with the Royal Canadian Armed Forces. She volunteers with the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada. Kristin is also the proud mother of two boys.
Government Award – Major Catherine Cabot
Major Catherine Cabot is an aerospace engineer in the Canadian Armed Forces. She has held a variety of positions supporting the CP 140 Aurora fleet in first line maintenance and software projects. Catherine has also had the privilege of serving as Aide-de-Camp to the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) and Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff to the CDS. Most recently, she was the Deputy Commanding Officer of 3 Air Maintenance Squadron, responsible for second line maintenance of the CF188s. Catherine will take on a new challenge this summer as the Senior Aide-de-Camp to the Governor General. Her past deployments have included Afghanistan (2013) and Romania (2022). Catherine earned her undergraduate degree in software engineering from Concordia University, a post-graduate degree in Aerospace Program Management from University of Manitoba and a Master of Public Administration from the Royal Military College of Canada. She is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Business Administration with a focus on project management at l’Université du Québec en Outaouais. Catherine is also the proud mother of two.
Trailblazer Award – Glenna Sharratt
Glenna Sharratt is a flight operations consultant providing regulatory support and guidance to Canadian air operators for the past 20 years. She has more than 45 years in the aviation industry with experience as a commercial pilot, advanced flight training instructor, approved check pilot, 20 years as a Transport Canada Flight Operations Inspector and 20 years as a consultant. Inspired by her father, Glenn Sharratt, a private pilot who loved to fly his Mooney as often as possible, she started flying when she was 19 years old. She earned her Private Pilot’s Licence at the Brandon Flying Club in three weeks, her commercial pilot licence a few months later, and then her multi-engine and instrument ratings before she was 21 years old. Her first flying job was on a Cessna 337 in Manitoba. In 1976, she became the first female pilot at Perimeter Aviation, based in Winnipeg. In 1983, Glenna joined Transport Canada as an Inspector where she worked in the Ottawa, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Victoria offices. In 2003, she started GS Aviation Consulting Inc., based in Victoria, B.C. which has become a well-respected flight operations consulting business. She has assisted hundreds of air operators with AOC start-ups, quality assurance audits, Company Operations Manuals, etc.. Glenna has been a member of the Manitoba Aviation Council, the Canadian Business Aviation Association, the BC Aviation Council and the Northern Air Transport Association.
Rising Star Award – Alisha Sohpaul
Alisha Sohpaul is a Transport Canada Airworthiness Inspector and is proudly part of the 2.8% of female AMEs in Canada. Recognizing the need for mentorship, she co-founded the “Hangar Queens”, the first female AME network in Canada. She is a licensed M1 and M2 Aircraft Maintenance Engineer and has been working in the industry for the past nine years. In addition, Alisha has been a maintenance controller and a line maintenance supervisor. She volunteers with Canadian Women in Aviation and Elevate Aviation. She has been Vice-President of the Pacific Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Association and serves on the BC Aviation Council Youth Engagement committee. Alisha is passionate about giving back to the industry and enjoys promoting aviation career options for young women.
Rising Star – Yasna Taieb
Yasna Taieb first joined the aviation community through the Royal Canadian Air Cadets Program, where she earned her glider and private pilot licenses. Yasna went on to join the Cadet Instructor Cadre of the Canadian Forces Reserves and currently holds the rank of Lieutenant. She has taught glider and private pilot ground schools to youth in five different squadrons and is presently the Training Officer with 540 Golden Hawks. Yasna is actively involved with The Ninety-Nines, Women in Aviation, Dreams Take Flight and The Northern Lights Aero Foundation, leading the mentorship and social media programs.Yasna works with women in the Canadian Afghan community to reach their full potential through leading grant-funded community initiatives. She holds her Commercial Pilot License and will be working on her multi-IFR ratings with the intention of continuing her studies in aviation safety and human factors. She is currently an in-flight operations manager with Jazz Aviation.
The 2023 gala awards dinner is scheduled for Saturday October 21, 2023 at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton, Ontario. Tickets will be on sale in July.
This press release was prepared and distributed by the Northern Lights Aero Foundation