'You still have to pinch me': Father and daughter co-pilot Air Canada flight
When Jennie Olafson was a little girl, she would sometimes sit in the cockpit of the Air Canada flights her father flew, fascinated by all the lights and switches around her, and imagining what it would be like to fly the plane herself.
"I got to sit in the observer seat so I got to see everything that was going on in the flight deck and that's when I really knew I really wanted to do it,” she told CTV Vancouver Tuesday.
Now, years later, not only has she been able to make her flying dreams come true, she and her dad have become the first father-and-daughter duo to co-pilot an Air Canada overseas flight on the 787 Dreamliner.
Olafson’s father James Sullivan began flying as a military pilot and then moved into commercial aviation, taking a job with Air Canada in 1987. He says he must have instilled a love for flying in his daughter from an early age.
"In the days when we had an open cockpit, I took Jennie once or twice with me to work," he said.
Olafson followed in her father’s footsteps by doing four years of flight school, and continued her training doing four more years as a bush pilot. But Olafson always dreamed of flying for Air Canada, just like her dad.
Then, seven years ago, the airline finally hired her. But she couldn’t work with her father because they flew different types of aircraft. That changed this year, Olafson became certified to pilot a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the jet Air Canada uses for long-haul, trans-Pacific flights.
James and Jennie put in a request to fly together, and on March 21, they co-piloted a flight from Vancouver to Taipei, becoming the airline’s first father-daughter co-pilots. Jennie says it was a “really neat” experience.
"On a professional level, we got to see each other in our element and what we do for a living," she said.
For Sullivan, the experience was deeply meaningful.
"You still have to pinch me today," he said. "Yes, I was proud. I was happy to be there and looking back on it, it (means) even more to me today."
Now, they're hoping to repeat the experience in the near future.
"We're definitely going to try to do it again, maybe every other month or so," Olafson said.
And with Olafson’s young sons already crazy about airplanes, the first Canadian mother-son flight might be on the horizon too.
"The sky's the limit," she said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson