Shirley Allen of Orangeville, Ontario, was honoured as a 2012 inductee into the International Forest of Friendship, in Atchison, Kansas during ceremonies in June. The Forest is a living, growing memorial to the world history of aviation and aerospace. She was recognized for her work with aviation and environmental monitoring in Canada, and particularly for her contributions to the First Canadian Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, the International Organization of Women Pilots.
On May 15th, 2004 at the East Canada Section Annual Meeting, Shirley Allen was presented with the 2003 Governor Service Award by East Canada Section Governor, Dorothy Berthelet.
Shirley has been a member of our Chapter since 1967 and has contributed so much of her energy, her time but most importantly, her spirit to our group. Recently known as our resident Ninety-Nine’s historian, Shirley has painstakingly researched, collected and preserved our history, much of which can be seen at museums and in the Chapter Scrap Book that is displayed at every AGM. Shirley researched and wrote the stories for the ‘Women Aviation Pioneers and FCC Aviators of Distinction’, thank you Shirley!
Shirley met her husband Ken Allen at a dance in Birmingham England on March 3, 1945. The end of the war was coming and Ken was posted to Canada for assignment to the Pacific Theater. He got five days leave and they were married in England on May 17, 1945. Shirley arrived in Canada in May 1946 in time for her first wedding anniversary. She flew as navigator with her husband for twenty years while raising four children. In 1955 they bought a Stinson 108-3 which they flew extensively around southern Ontario and the eastern United States.
With the children all at school, Shirley enrolled at Buttonville Airport and got her Private License eight months later in 1967. For a short while, Shirley was Vice President of Allenco, a dealership for Alon aircraft where she flew demo flights around southern Ontario until Mooney bought them out.
Shirley joined the First Canadian Chapter Ninety- Nines in 1967. In 1968 she organized the Air Marking program and was the first Air Marking Chairman for the Canadian Ninety Nines. In 1969, Shirley got her Multi Engine rating and flew off to the Ninety-Nines Convention in New York City in an Apache five days later. In 1970 the First Canadian Chapter hosted the start of the Angel Derby, Toronto to Nassau and Shirley and Heather Sifton flew a Cherokee 180 to join in the fun. In 1971, Shirley got her Commercial License and was advised by Toronto Island Tower, as she was taxiing the family C310 enroute to Nassau, that she had passed! That same year, Shirley and Heather also flew the Governor General’s Air Race and won first place! From 1969 to 1972, Shirley was Secretary for the Canadian International Air Show, working with the Pentagon, British High Commission, show performers and Military personnel to arrange meetings, accommodations and anything else that was required. Since 1970, Shirley Allen has found ways, through the First Canadian Chapter Ninety- Nines, to contribute to the organization nationally and internationally. Here a few of Shirley’s contributions:
- 1970 –1971 (2 yrs) News Reporter for the First Canadian Chapter, Ninety- Nines
- 1971 –1972 Chaired the Ninety-Nines International Convention in Toronto, the first to be held outside the United States.
- Appointed International Public Relations Chairman by the International President. Shirley did a promotional tour from Vancouver, across Canada to Great Britain and France rekindling interest in the International aspects of the Ninety-Nines.
- Established and wrote International Hotline column in the Ninety- Nines News magazine, reporting on the activities of all the overseas Sections.
- 1976-1978 Chapter Chair, First Canadian Chapter, Ninety-Nines
- Organized Skywatch Program with the Ministry of the Environment, First Operation Skywatch Chairman.
- Organizer and Program Chair, long running series of Aviation Seminars, which ultimately earned the First Canadian Chapter and FAI diploma in 1981.
- Primary force and researcher for the First Canadian Chapter, Ninety- Nines display of “Women in Aviation, Eastern Canada”, on display at the Toronto Aerospace Museum, Downsview. Many items in the display are from her personal collection, including the flight suit of Canada’s first woman pilot, Eileen Vollick.
Outside the Ninety-Nines, Shirley has been an active force in supporting aviation and has reached to promote interest, learning, enjoyment and participation wherever she could.
- 1980–1981 (2 yrs) and again 1985–1987 Author/reporter of “Up and Away” column, COPA publication.
- Put together and taught Co-pilot course at Humber College for two years.
- Taught ground school for two years for the Air Cadets of 666 Squadron RCAFC.
- Wrote monthly “Flashbacks” for COPA publication, highlighting early pioneering women pilots in Eastern Canada.
- International Public Relations and Vice President of the International Council of Air Shows.
- National Public Relations for Aerobatics Canada.
- 1974–to present date, Member of the British Women Pilots’ Association, attends meetings in Britain.
Shirley’s flying endeavours include:
- 1967-Private License, Buttonville, Ontario
- 1969-Multi Engine Rating, Toronto, Ontario
- 1971-Commercial License, Toronto City Centre, Ontario
- Aerobatics training, 220 hp. Stearman, Florida
- Flew Joe Hughes’ 600 hp. Stearman in aerobatics
- Flew in many military aircraft as part of the CIAS, including a fly-by in an RAF Vulcan out of Trenton, a flight in the Sikorsky helicopter that put the top on the CN Tower, and aileron rolls in Canada’s first Cessna Citation demo aircraft.
If you are a younger member and have not had a chance to sit down and chat with Shirley, do it. Her experiences and stories are fascinating. On behalf of all the First Canadian Chapter Ninety-Nines, Thank you, Shirley!