By Lise Ash

In late September I left on a big adventure, flying as a Volunteer Flight Crew member on Give Hope Wings’ third undertaking, the Sault to Saguenay 2020 Expedition. It was an ambitious multi-aircraft, five-day expedition in central Canada that will allow Hope Air to launch as many as 400 medical flights so patients in rural areas can reach medical care far from home.

Our sendoff from Ontario’s Burlington airport (CZBA) took us over Niagara Falls, up the sandy coast of Lake Huron, along the Bruce Peninsula and north to Sault Ste. Marie. Our squadron flew over the Agawa Canyon, catching aerial views of the east shore of Lake Superior. Finally, we flew along the beautiful Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers to historic Trois Rivieres, with a unique fly-over of the Saguenay River fjord and the spectacular gorges of the Parc National des Grands-Jardins. The last day was a return flight to Burlington.

I was honoured in 2019 to be a part of Hope Air’s Give Hope Wings fundraising expedition. During those 21 days we flew through the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, circumnavigated Alaska and crisscrossed beautiful British Columbia. We flew to the Russia/U.S. sea border in the Bering Sea, over and around Denali National Park and over the Aleutian Islands. The expedition was challenging—and successful. We met wonderful people along the way while raising awareness and a total of $250,000.

The skies opened up for me when I joined the Air Cadets at the age of 16. After my first solo flight in a glider I was hooked. In 1981, I held competing dreams—to be a pilot and a nurse, but I had already been accepted into nursing school with deposits paid, and my parent’s expectations were clear. The day I began nursing I promised myself that one day I would have those wings. Keeping that dream alive in my heart for 35 years, at the age of 52 my work paid off when I finally earned my pilot licence.

Lise Ash alongside the Diamond DA-40 she flew in during the Give Hope Wings 2020 Expedition.

For four years I’ve been an active pilot with the Abbotsford Flying Club, flying their Cessna 172 and Piper Archer. I am also a member of the BC Coast chapter of the 99’s. I feel inspired by the amazing women and men I meet who fly privately and commercially. We are all ages and come from diverse backgrounds, however, we are united by the same passion for the skies. For me, marrying my newfound love of flying and serving others is a total fit.

If you are looking for reasons or ways to fly and give back, join me for the next Give Hope Wings adventure, the 2021 Canada – Coast to Coast Expedition next June.

Top photo credit: ‘Pilot Annie’ Rusinowski