AVIATORS OF DISTINCTION
Margo McCutcheon’s story echoes the trials of most women pilots. As a high school graduate in the ’50s, she was offered the usual trio of career choices: nursing, teaching, secretarial work. She chose nursing because an R.N. was a ticket to aviation. She was a mother of four when her brother took her for a ride in a helicopter and she decided to make her adolescent dream come true.
In 1975 Margo received her Private Pilot certificate. Margo McCutcheon’s story in aviation goes back to high school when she won a flight from Toronto to New York… she was hooked on aviation and flying, but it wasn’t until after she married and her four children were in school that she had time for flying lessons. “I was hooked from the first lift off… I loved that summer, soaring high, banking and swooping in figure eights… I love flying for the feeling of freedom, escapism from the real world and the need to be completely focused on something entirely different”, she says.
Over the next couple of years Margo added ratings and endorsements. Her first airplane was a Cessna 172, which she flew around Ontario and Quebec. Wanting to go further, higher and faster, a Beech Baron became her new love. She added many more hours and new destinations across Canada, the USA, the Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean, Irish Sea and Mexico.
“I love flying for the feeling of freedom, escapism from the real world and the need to be completely focused on something entirely different,” she says. In 1985 she teamed up with Fogle and Schiff to enter the New York to Paris Transatlantic Race. They placed first in the women’s division.
Margo’s joy and love of the fellowship of the 99s has kept her busy since 1977, with her involvement in the First Canadian Chapter meetings, taking part in local flying adventures, organizing and volunteering at fundraisers for the First Canadian Chapter 99s, organizing lectures series for chapter members and the public, promoting women in aviation, flying familiarization flights for females who have never been in an aircraft, helping to create the East Canada Section’s ‘Gold Cup Air Rally’, organizing the annual chapter Poker Run, and helping establish Spies in the Sky: Operation Skywatch (see below). Margo has also served as the First Canadian Chapter as it’s Chair, as well as is a past Governor of the 99s East Canada Section. Margo was a mentor to many fellow female pilots around Toronto. Many 99s flew with her over the years, including joining her in flying the Air Race Classic in 1990.
She taught the FCC 99 members on their journeys about real IFR flying, plus she mentored Seneca College students and was very generous with her time and her plane! The first year of the East Canada Section’s ‘Gold Cup Rally’ she donated a trip down to her home on Marco Island in her Baron In 1985 Margo teamed up with two other First Canadian Chapter members, Adele Fogle and Daphnie Schiff to enter the New York to Paris Transatlantic Race. They placed first in the women’s division.
Margo is a Trustee of the prestigious 99s Canadian Award in Aviation and has served for over 30 years. The CAIA is well recognized by the aviation community in Canada. Each year an Award of $2000.00 is presented to a worthy candidate in Canadian aviation.
McCutcheon was instrumental in turning the First Canadian Chapter 99s into ‘Spies in the Sky’, in 1976. This program had the FCC 99s flying pollution patrols for the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Flying their own airplane, they would sweep the lakes and forests to track the source of fouled lake water and follow lonely forest roads to illegal dumpsites. The low-level aerial photography Margo would take was evidence – making a significant contribution in the war against pollution.
Today the program operates under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Environment and is now called ‘Operation Skywatch’. Spreading the word about this environmental initiative became one of Margo’s personal missions in the 1980s. ‘Angels of the Sky’, was a movie produced about Margo and the other FCC 99 members who were part of Operation Skywatch. The movie was aired on TV for a period of two years in Canada, the USA and England, winning a film Award in the USA.