January of 2021 was a special month for Inuvialuk Captain Dawn Macfarlane. It was then that she became first Inuk woman to captain a Canadian North 737. It would seem aviation milestones run in her blood, as Captain Macfarlane is the daughter of retired Captain Cecil Hansen, an Inuvialuk pilot who became the first Inuk jet captain in Canada in 1980.
Captain Macfarlane’s first flight in the 737-200 was in April of 2008 as a First Officer. The following month she flew Canadian North’s scheduled service 5T444 from Edmonton to Inuvik with her father.
“It was our first flight together as Captain and First Officer, father and daughter. It was one of the more special days in my career, to fly home, with family onboard, with my dad. Not many people get to say that,” she recalled. Captain Macfarlane was given the opportunity to become captain at Canadian North on the 737-200 and 737-300 in October of 2020, and after her training was completed, she flew her first flight as a captain in January.
“I feel a sense of pride, to be honest,” she said of being the first Inuk woman to fly a Canadian North jet. “In our current world where so many sad and untold stories are finally surfacing, I feel it is more important than ever to be a positive voice and a successful Aboriginal example.” She would like the youth of the North to know that if you are willing to leave home to gain your education, and then work hard on your career, you can return and contribute to your community and people in a rewarding way. “I have always been honoured to work for an Aboriginal owned airline, and to be a beneficiary of that makes me feel like I am a part of the greater good for the Inuvialuit,” she said.
Also setting aviation milestones is Air Inuit Captain Melissa Haney. Social media was buzzing in early September as Captain Haney, the first Inuk woman to captain an Air Inuit Dash-8, again made history as she took off for the first time as captain of an Air Inuit Boeing 737-200 for a commercial flight from Montreal to La Grande, then to Puvirnituq, and back.
Photographer and self-proclaimed “aviation freak” Jean-Pierre Bonin was at the airport in Montreal that day and took photos which he then posted to Facebook. The post received more than 700 “likes” and even more “shares.”
Captain Haney said that being the first Inuk woman to captain an Air Inuit Boeing 737-200 was not a goal she was aiming for when she started her pilot license, but she would like to use the recognition she has been afforded to bring awareness to young women and Indigenous youth that they can have amazing careers and to set goals for themselves that they can achieve.
Captain Macfarlane echoed the encouragement that Captain Haney offers to youth. “The educational options for Aboriginal youth are incredible, all they need is the courage to seize the opportunity and gain the education. Any female interested in becoming a pilot has every opportunity to do so,” she said.