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Empowering Dreams: Illumia Labs Grants $1000 Scholarship to Aspiring Female Pilot

Illumia Labs was honoured to participate in the Manitoba Aviation Council Banquet, where we had the opportunity to award a $1,000 scholarship to an aspiring female aviator, Emily Fredette. Emily’s commitment to her goals in aviation is inspiring.

Her journey reflects resilience and determination in overcoming adversity. Despite initial doubts and financial constraints, Emily pursued her passion for aviation with perseverance and self-belief.

Motivated by her own journey, Emily is dedicated to utilizing the scholarship funds to complete her IFR training and pursue her dream of becoming a flight instructor at Moncton Flight College. Beyond her personal goals, she is driven to inspire other young women to explore careers in aviation by sharing her story and plans to actively engage with organizations like Women in Aviation to advocate for gender diversity and empowerment in the industry.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Emily and discuss her future aspirations and the impact she hopes to make in the aviation industry.

First of all, congratulations on being awarded the $1,000 scholarship! Could you please share a bit about yourself and what sparked your passion for aviation? 

After high school, I found myself uncertain about my career path. I enrolled in university briefly, pursuing Kinesiology with aspirations of becoming a physiotherapist. However, despite my skills, I lacked a true passion for the field. It wasn’t until I began working at the airport that I found my calling. Unfortunately, I was laid off due to the seasonal nature of the job.

I then transitioned to working as a train attendant, which sparked the realization that if I could excel in that role, I could do the same on an airplane. Fuelled by my love for travel and adventure, I embraced this new career path and spent nearly seven years in the aviation industry. Throughout this time, my passion for aviation continued to grow, solidifying my decision to remain in this field.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic served as a turning point, forcing me to reassess my life and career goals after being laid off. Although I briefly considered alternative paths, I ultimately couldn’t imagine myself pursuing anything outside of aviation. Transitioning from serving on the 737 to the 767/787, including working on the Dreamliner aircraft in business class, provided me with valuable experience. Yet, I knew I was ready for a new challenge and embraced the opportunity for growth and advancement.

What inspired you to pursue your dream of becoming a pilot?

Society often perpetuates the stereotype that pilots are men and flight attendants are women. However, my perspective shifted dramatically when I encountered my first female pilot, Katherine Kelly, during my early days in aviation. Witnessing her in the cockpit was inspiring, yet at that time, I never envisioned myself pursuing a similar path. The notion of becoming a pilot seemed entirely out of reach, and I doubted my own capabilities.

It wasn’t until approximately five years ago, while working as a flight attendant for WestJet, that I had a transformative encounter with another female captain, Kristen Long. During a layover, Kristen and I engaged in a conversation over a meal, discussing our career aspirations. She posed a simple yet important question: “Where do you see yourself progressing in your career?” Having started my journey in aviation at a young age, I pondered the next steps in my career trajectory. It was then that Kristen suggested the possibility of becoming a pilot.

Initially, I dismissed the idea, citing self-doubt and uncertainty. However, Kristen’s  belief in me challenged my mindset. Her question, “Why not?” resonated deeply, prompting me to reconsider my limitations. In that moment, I realized that all I needed was to have faith in myself and believe in the possibility of achieving my dreams. Kristen’s encouragement ignited a spark within me, propelling me towards pursuing a new path in aviation.

How do you envision your future in the industry?

My aspirations in aviation know no bounds. Having experienced the realm of commercial aviation, from working on wide-body aircraft to smaller counterparts, I am eager to explore new horizons. In the near future, I envision myself delving into the Northern operation, recognizing the vast opportunities it presents. My ambitions extend beyond the cockpit, as I aspire to step into management roles and ultimately, become a chief pilot.  I firmly believe that the sky’s the limit!

How do you plan to use the scholarship funds to support your aviation career aspirations?

As I near the completion of my IFR instrument flight rules rating, I’m faced with the reality of its cost. However, I’m incredibly grateful for the financial support that will alleviate some of the financial strain associated with these flights. This assistance will not only ease my stress but also allow me to focus on reaching the finish line. After putting in a huge effort and dedication, I’m more than prepared to overcome this hurdle and continue with my aviation journey.

Can you share any more specific goals or milestones you hope to achieve in your aviation journey? 

I’m deeply passionate about becoming more involved with Women in Aviation and empowering younger women to pursue careers in the industry, regardless of any self-doubt they may harbor. Just as the women before me paved the way for my own journey, I would like to pay it forward and instill confidence in the next generation of female aviators. I hope to serve as a source of inspiration for other young women, encouraging them to believe in themselves and their abilities. With support and determination, I believe they can overcome any obstacles and soar to new heights in the aviation industry.

What challenges have you faced or anticipate facing in pursuing your aviation dreams, and how do you plan to overcome them?

Self-confidence is something that everyone struggles with at some point. It’s natural to doubt ourselves and feel like there are limitations to what we can achieve. Reflecting on my journey from where I started to where I am now, I’m sometimes amazed by the progress I’ve made. It’s almost surreal to acknowledge, but it’s  real. Recognizing that I’ve accomplished this journey on my own is incredibly empowering and instils a sense of confidence within me.

What advice would you offer to other aspiring aviation enthusiasts who are also pursuing their dreams in the field?

While self-confidence isn’t something you can learn in a classroom, I strongly encourage others to have more faith in themselves and to raise their own expectations. There truly are no limits to what we can achieve when we set our minds to it. I hope that by sharing my story, others can see that transformation is possible. From never imagining aviation as a viable option to embracing a mindset of determination and possibility, I want others to recognize that there are endless opportunities awaiting them. There are no boundaries to what we can accomplish when we really believe in ourselves.

How do you see yourself contributing to the advancement and innovation of the aviation industry in the future?

I’m on track to become an instructor at Moncton College as part of a program where, upon completing training, you transition into a flight instructor role. Following that, the next step is to join one of the EIC companies. I’m excited about the prospect of becoming a flight instructor because it means I’ll have the opportunity to influence someone else’s future career path, potentially helping them realize their dream of becoming a pilot. Being able to impart my knowledge and experience to aspiring aviators is something I’m truly passionate about.

Lastly, what message would you like to share with other people out there who also dream of a career in aviation?

Becoming a pilot comes with a significant financial burden. It’s a daunting investment that can seem overwhelming at first. For the longest time, I dreamed of becoming a pilot but hesitated due to the financial commitment required. However, I discovered a program that provided financial assistance, making my dream more feasible. I realized that waiting to be “financially ready” might never happen and that this journey required a leap of faith—a self-investment in my future. Every pilot faces this challenge, but they also understand that it’s an investment that yields huge returns. So, my advice is not to let financial concerns hold you back. Take the leap, invest in yourself, and trust that it will pay off in the end.

Emily’s journey exemplifies the transformative impact of perseverance and determination, serving as an inspiration to aspiring aviators everywhere. Illumia Labs is honored to stand behind Emily, supporting her as she embarks on this journey. We look forward to watching her reach new heights and achieve her dreams in the aviation industry.

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