Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton celebrates women in the industry

The Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton hosted its seventh annual Women of Aviation Worldwide Week event on Saturday.

The global movement recognizes females in the industry while inspiring the next generation of future pilots.

Ever since she was 12, Sophia Wells knew she wanted a life in the skies.

“I saw an F-18 one day and just had that, ‘Oh my God, aha’ moment,” Wells said.

From then on, she never stopped chasing her dream.

In the industry for nearly two decades now, Wells is also the chief instructor at the Edmonton Flying Club.

“I get to mentor a lot of up-and-coming instructors and see them go on to all kinds of different paths,” she said.

“It’s great seeing people’s dreams come true. I really love it.”

Wells said events like this are important.

“It’s a time to showcase… If you have that question, come and ask,” she said.

The event is essentially like a career fair; there are guest speakers as well as flight simulators, and people can dress up.

She said at the museum, more young women are taking an interest in aviation.

“We’re starting to get a lot more young women as volunteers, a lot more women coming to our programs,” Middleton explained.

The museum also launched its newest exhibit called “Not Just a Pretty Face,” which highlights the struggles women faced in the airline industry.

“Women were not treated very nicely in the airline industry for many years,” assistant curator with the museum Ryan Lee said.

“I wanted to build a display to talk about their struggles and how they fought to get equal rights and proper workdays, proper pay.”

He said there are several stories he hopes to tell, starting with this one:

“In 1971, there was a male passenger that got drunk on the flight and tried to pull the woman’s bloomers down and got punched in the face for it,” Lee explained.

When the flight attendants complained, they were fired, according to Lee. After protests, they were reinstated and the revealing uniform was discontinued.

While being a woman never grounded Wells’ dream, she acknowledged that is not the case for everyone.

“I hadn’t seen somebody that looked like me and for whatever reason, that didn’t stop me,” Wells said.

“I’m really proud it didn’t but I have heard of other people saying it did.”

She said she feels like that’s changing but noted that aviation is still relatively young.

“It’s only 100 years old, so we’ve got a ways to go before we’re going to be 50-50, but I think why not get ahead of the game?” Wells said.

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