Women of Aviation Week Profile – Heather Pesto

March 5-11 is Women of Aviation Worldwide Week. COPA is proud to support this and the many other initiatives that work tirelessly to promote women’s involvement in all different aspects of the aviation industry. Each day during WOAW week, we are profiling a COPA member who is promoting aviation in her own area of the industry.

Today’s WOAW member profile is Heather Pesto, of Manitoba, who holds a PPL and is pursuing her CPL. Heather is also an experienced tow pilot in the Air Cadet glider program. We asked Heather about what inspired her to get involved in aviation, about her plans for the future, and how she sees COPA’s role in aviation:

I was lucky enough to know from a young age that I wanted to fly. I always loved birds and was especially interested in them for their flight; it was just magical to me. I talked to my parents all the time about how I wished I could fly, and they told me I could! My mother had heard about Air Cadets so she researched Squadrons near us and signed me up right away.

My history in aviation officially started as soon as I joined Cadets in September 2008. I became a member of 170 St. James Royal Canadian Air Cadets Squadron Winnipeg, MB and let it be known to my instructors and Commanding Officer that I wanted to learn how to fly. The Squadron offered many aviation related activities such as weekend gliding excursions in Gimli, MB, aviation related classes during our parade nights, and a ground school run by the squadron to prepare cadets who planned to apply to the Glider or Power Pilot Scholarships. Once I was able to, I applied for the Glider Pilot Scholarship and received my Glider License in the summer of 2011.

The following school year I enrolled at Providence University College where I completed my first year of a double major in Aviation and Business, receiving my Private Pilot’s License at Harv’s Air Service in the spring of ‘12. From there, I continued to time build. Due to the cost of flying, for the next couple years I focused more on work to try to save money to fund flying.

I remained working with cadets after I aged out at 19 years old, and in 2015 I became a member of the Cadet Instructor Cadre in the Canadian Forces Reserves. During my time working in the Cadet Program, I was promoted to Lieutenant, worked as a Level Training Officer at two Squadrons, instructed ground school at multiple cadet Squadrons, and I have helped instruct at a ground school program run by the 99s Manitoba Chapter.

In 2017, I successfully applied to be a tow pilot for the Cadet Flying Training Centre in Gimli. I flew the Bellanca Scout and towed Schweizer gliders for the cadets.

Right now, I am studying for my Commercial Written Test and hope to receive my Commercial License in the next few months.

My favourite part of flying is being able to learn something new every day. No matter what you do or where you go, the weather conditions are never the same which means the experience is always unique.  Also, the freedom and power you feel when in command  of such an impressive piece of equipment, and going pretty much wherever you want to go… it’s incredibly exhilarating!

My immediate goal is to get my Commercial Pilots License. I would like to work flying up north and see some of the beautiful landscapes Canadian wilderness has to offer. The challenging nature of northern flying will certainly prepare me for any flying I may end up doing.

My spare time is split between being adventurous and being comfy at home. I have just recently moved to Ontario with my husband, so a lot of our spare time is taken up by exploring and checking out cool new places that range from eateries, to entertainment, to the outdoors. I love camping, hiking and skiing. To balance all that, I adore curling up on my comfy chair with tea and a good book, or baking treats. When I get the chance, I enjoy visiting family in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan, helping my parents and grandparents out with odd jobs, and I love working out with my mother.

I encourage girls and women in aviation by setting a good example at the Cadet Squadrons that I’m involved with, and instructing ground schools. When I am teaching, I can share experiences with my classes and give them the tools and information they need to pursue their goals.

Being able to hear other women’s stories and how they’ve overcome challenges and achieved their goals has been one of the biggest motivators for me to stay engaged and positive in my own journey. I would like to pass that forward to other aspiring female pilots, so I take every opportunity to tell my story, including my mistakes and failings along the way. Hopefully this will help others realize that there will be setbacks along the way, but that staying determined and working hard will always get you to where you want to be, even if it might take a little longer than you’d like.

I also like to help out at as many events as I can. I was fortunate enough to be one of the pilots for the Manitoba Women’s Fly Day at St. Andrews Airport (summer 2017), and gave familiarization flights to many women and girls. It was a wonderful way to give back to the community and to perhaps help spark an interest in flying or other aviation related career.  It’s really very empowering to show people that it is possible for anyone to fly an airplane.

COPA is a wonderful organization with a wealth of information. Their websites and magazines cater to people from all areas of aviation whether it is a beginner looking for a flight school and tips to get started, to a person already in their career looking for an information session to sharpen their skills, to retired pilots who are looking to buy or sell an airplane.  They also do an amazing job of promoting the industry, not least by helping women get started in aviation via the information they provide on different schools, showcasing stories of women being role-models in the industry, as well as the advertisements for the many scholarships that help fund time building. Anyone even remotely interested in aviation would definitely benefit from a subscription to COPA’s magazine and emails.

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