Air Inuit's first female Inuk captain honoured in Quebec
Published Tuesday, August 15, 2017 7:56PM EDT
Melissa Haney might only be 36, but she’s already being heralded as a trailblazer and a role model.
“I’m the first female Inuk captain at Air Inuit,” Haney told CTV Montreal. “I hope there could be more that would follow.”
On Tuesday, Haney was honoured for this distinction with a commemorative stamp bearing her likeness.
“I love seeing passengers on my flight asking if I’m the pilot,” Haney said in her speech at an event where the stamp was unveiled.
Haney was raised in the remote community of Inukjuak, Que., on the shores of Hudson Bay. In villages like Inukjuak, aircraft are an essential lifeline.
“Planes are the only way to get in and out of town, so it's like second nature,” Haney said of flying.
Haney’s first job with Air Inuit was as a flight attendant, but it wasn’t satisfying enough.
“I said, ‘Oh no, I can't do this anymore -- I need to be up front,” she reminisced.
Flight school soon led Haney to a seat in the cockpit in smaller aircraft before she was promoted to the larger Bombardier Dash 8. But last year, Haney finally jumped from the first officer’s chair to the captain’s seat.
“Before, if the weather wasn't good somewhere, I would just tell the captain the weather's not good and then they would make the decisions,” Haney said. “But now everybody's coming to me.”
“She has demonstrated what you can do with determination and hard work,” Marilyn Dickson, an aviator and member of the Canadian 99s, told CTV Montreal. “She's a wonderful role model.”
Haney herself was overwhelmed by the honour.
“Seeing young girls or boys say they want to be a pilot when they grow up, I tell them they can,” she said in her emotional speech. “Believe in yourself and you will be unstoppable.”
Haley’s boss thinks so too.
“She's a role model for all people in Nunavik, whether they're women, whether they're men,” Air Inuit president Pita Aatami told CTV Montreal.
That sentiment was mirrored by Quebec’s Minister of Native Affairs, Geoffrey Kelley.
“Your success inspires other people,” Kelley told Haney in a speech. “And it's a very old, a very simple process that you lead by example. And your example is an example for other people across Nunavik.”
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Derek Conlon