When First Officer Raven Beardy agreed to work overtime for Missinippi Medivac last Monday, she had no idea she and Capt. Robyn Shlachetla were flying into the history books. The two young pilots became the first female indigenous air ambulance flight crew. “It was totally by chance that it all happened,” said Shlachetka. That it also happened at the beginning of Women of Aviation Week made it even more noteworthy. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m definitely overwhelmed. We didn’t expect this kind of reaction,” Shlachetka told the CBC.
A Facebook post noting the flight gathered thousands of likes and gave Shlachetka and Beardy a platform to discuss the gender and diversity gaps in Canadian cockpits. “It’s fantastic. It’s proving that women can do anything,” said Shlachetka. “It doesn’t matter if being a pilot was a male-dominated career … young Indigenous women can see that this is not impossible.”They can do anything they want.” Shlachetka, 32, has been flying for 17 years and Beardy, 27 has been a pilot for five years. Although they work for the same company, flying people, cargo and medevac flights to First Nations communities in northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nunavut, their schedules had never intersected. Both agree there are huge opportunities for female indigenous pilots. “Go for it. Stay focused. Work hard and don’t give up,” Beardy told CBC “Like anyone, you’re going to face struggles, but there are people out there, too, who are willing to help out.