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Paving the way for female pilots

Capt. Elizabeth Crosier, 25, as first officer on her trip to Cologne, Germany. Photo by Steph Crosier

By Steph Crosier

Elizabeth Crosier never planned on paving the way for female pilots in the military, but she’s ready to take off.

Crosier, 25, a 135-pound captain in the Canadian military, with seven years of flying experience, is piloting a Globemaster,  a 170-foot long monster, with a wingspan of about 170 feet.

She is the first Canadian female officer to fly the Globemaster since the Canadian Forces started flying the planes in 2007. Quite the feat considering only 15 percent of officers in the Canadian military are females, and only 4 percent pilots are female.

“I feel very fortunate,” says Crosier.

The Globemaster is the largest aircraft in the CF. It can transport up to 102 troops or three armoured vehicles. It can also carry three Apache helicopters or one main battle tank. It was developed by Boeing in the eighties for the United States Air Force. Canada purchased four of the Globemasters from Boeing in July 2006 after years of borrowing the Antonov from the Russian military.

Crosier is now flying the CF Globemaster for a living. Her first official flight was a trans-Atlantic to Cologne, Germany.

“I was 80 percent excited and 20 percent nervous,” says Crosier. “But I think it went really well. But I’m still learning.”

Crosier has been “learning” to be a pilot for 10 years. At 16, her uncle Alan Crosier sent her and his girlfriend to Florida to get their private pilot’s licence because he knew how much she wanted to be a pilot.

“I just remember seeing people flying at air shows so it probably was when I was 10 or 11, and I thought it was really cool,” says Crosier. “I just remember my dad saying if you ever want to do that then you can, but it requires you to work hard in school and do well. And that’s what I did.”

Her father, Major Brian Crosier, and mother, Cathy Crosier, encouraged her to work hard but it was her father’s experience in the military that lead her to the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.

“By the time I had gotten into Grade 10, I had decided that yes, I will try to get into RMC,” said Crosier. “A paid university degree and I knew that I wanted to be in the military, so it seemed like a good choice. I chose mechanical engineering at RMC because I knew that if I couldn’t be a pilot that I would want to work with aircraft, so engineering would do that for me.”

A week after her last high school exam, at 17-years-old, she was sent away to Saint Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. for basic training.

From basic training Crosier was sent to RMC to what she thought was starting her engineering. What she had no idea about was the First Year Orientation Program, or FYOP.

Between her second and third year at RMC Crosier trained on the Grob.

“I was actually the first female military pilot to finish the Grob course,” said Crosier.

In May 2009 Crosier trained in Moose Jaw, Sask. for almost a year.

At the end of the course, she discovered she would be flying multi-engine aircraft including the Airbus, the Aurora, the Hercules, and the C-17 with training in Portage-la-Prairie, Man. The next phase of training was the multi-course.

When a pilot graduates from the course they receive their wings.  Crosier said that knowing she would get her wings one day got her through basic training, long engineering nights at RMC, and the distance from family.

The night she received her wings was the best night of her life.

“That was a long time coming and it was a great feeling to get those wings pinned on my uniform,” said Crosier. “It was funny one day someone was trying to take them off my uniform and I was like ‘Don’t touch my wings. You don’t know how long it took me to get those, so don’t play with them.’”

A few days before receiving her wings Crosier was posted to 429 Squadron in Trenton to fly the C-17.

“I really thought there were no spots, so when they said I got 429 Squadron I was a little confused,” said Crosier. “I thought I got my squadrons screwed up.  But it turned out that the spot opened up the day before we were selected. So I got really lucky. And when I realized I’d gotten C-17 I thought ‘Oh my God, I got C-17, this is everything I ever wanted!’”

When she met with Lieutenant-Colonel Iain Huddleston she was told to prepare for some publicity.

“He was the only one who ever said anything to me,” said Crosier. “Well except for a couple of my girlfriends who were on squadron already. And they were just really happy for me.”

In August 2011 Crosier was sent to Altus, Oklahoma, to learn to pilot the C-17.  Upon completion, she was assigned her flight to Cologne.

Her current commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Jason Stark, has no doubts about having Crosier in his squadron.

“I worked with Crosier before and she was a very capable officer,” said Stark. “The fact that she is a female makes no difference to me. I know that the squadron has gained a very capable young officer.”

Crosier knows she has worked hard but also acknowledges the luck involved.

“I would say that I’ve been pretty fortunate timing wise,” said Crosier. “It doesn’t matter how well you do, if those spots aren’t open you’re not going to get that spot.”

 

Disclaimer: The author Steph Crosier is the sister of Elizabeth Crosier.

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