An international, history-making, aviation pioneer, Major (Ret.) Dee Brasseur is one of the first two women in the world trained and qualified to fly the CF-18 “Hornet”, Canada’s sophisticated supersonic jet fighter aircraft.
Throughout a 21-year distinguished military career, Dee rose in the ranks from Private “Desk Jockey” Secretary to Major “Jet Jockey” Pilot, accumulating 2,500 hours of flying experience and a wealth of unique life experiences!
A professional speaker since 1994, Dee has spoken to thousands of people across Canada, the United States and Europe. She guarantees to create successful conventions, meetings, in-service programs and seminars.
Dee lived in Centralia where her father was based with the RCAF. She recalled that in 1965, at age twelve she bicycled to the nearby Royal Canadian Air Force Station Centralia airport and peered through the fence to watch the Chipmunk aircraft taking off with air force training pilots learning to fly. As she watched for hours on end, she dreamed “the impossible dream”, and wished that she could fly. For her that was not possible – because she was a girl!
Thirty-two years later, in June 1998, she was again watching planes taking off from the Centralia Airport to participate in the Grand Bend International Air Show. From her vantage point in the control tower she could practically see that kid on the bicycle pressing her nose against the fence. As the CF18 Hornet suddenly appeared on approach for landing, she felt a lump in her throat and a tear in her eye. She had achieved her dream! She had flown that plane at Mach 1.8, almost twice the speed of sound – 31.9 km/min! The following morning, her presentation to fifteen hundred students held a special significance as she described her career with the Canadian Armed Forces and encouraged those young minds to follow their own dreams!
Following her father’s lead, Dee joined the military in 1972 . After months of listening to the dental drills as the administration clerk in the Dental Clinic, Dee decided she was not “Being all that she could be,” and applied for a commission. Her posting to North Bay as an Air Weapons Controller put her in contact with many pilots and several jet aircraft and after two orientation rides in 1978 Dee started taking lessons to obtain her private pilot licence.
When the military started a trial program for women pilots in 1979, Dee was one of four women selected for the program. This was not as positive a situation as Dee had imagined! She loved the flying, but was frustrated by some of the attitudes she encountered. Though there were a few “Good Men” who were supportive and encouraging, there were many others within the macho environment who abused the power of their rank and position. The women were often unnerved by unwanted advances and sexual innuendos. Coursemates envied the media attention and tried to minimize the women’s successes by suggesting that the women were given privileged assignments simply because they were women. Though the military tried to deflect publicity, these four women were very much in the public eye. In spite of the environment, three of the four graduated with glowing colours. Dee loved the flying!
Following wings graduation in 1981, Dee became the first and only female instructor. However not until her remarkable emergency forced landing following an engine failure at night, did she feel truly accepted by her male colleagues. In 1988 at age 35 she was one of two women accepted for fighter pilot training. Again in the public eye, and constantly compared with young men, Dee excelled. After completing the training, she was posted to 416 Squadron Cold Lake, AB where she flew her “dream” – the CF18 Hornet! In 1994, after 21 years, Dee retired from the Canadian Armed Forces. Only after retirement did she feel safe to reveal the sexual harassment she had experienced. Maclean’s magazine featured her twice in 1998, first in a June issue on sexual abuse and again in their December Annual Maclean’s Honour Roll, naming Dee for her courage in dealing with it. More than sixteen years later, May 13, 2015, a Globe and Mail writer wrote “But it was the passing comment of a retired female air-force trailblazer that provided the simplest and most compelling analysis of how to address these issues. In a televised CBC story on the April 2015 release of the Deschamps report on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces, Dee Brasseur was remarkably optimistic, noting that if leaders openly and definitively embraced the need for change, their subordinates would follow , given the military’s command- and-obey ethos.” Dee has no regrets and remains optimistic as she continues her professional speaking career, encouraging her audiences to follow their dreams.
In 1995-96 Dee formed, trained and led the first ever all women Canadian Precision Flying Team to participate in the World Precision Flying Championships hosted by the 99’s in Fort Worth Texas. The team received the COPA Outstanding Achievement award for 1996.
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