Dee Birchmore Butterfly Award

Dee Birchmore had many special qualities and achievements. Although she wanted to be a pilot from an early age, life took her in other directions. She was a “mature woman” when she followed her longtime dream and learned to fly. Not content to simply acquire the basic entry rating was consistent with Dee’s philosophy and work ethic. A lifelong learner, Dee also earned a Commercial licence and Instrument Rating.

A few years after Dee learned to fly she was flying over a residential area of Toronto when her engine failed. She headed towards an open patch of grass where she would likely have had a safe emergency landing. But when she realized it was a schoolyard, she steered away and landed in a tree. The FCC of the 99s awarded Dee a specially created “Butterfly Award” to recognize her calm and compassionate decision-making, thinking of others rather than herself.

The idea for Dee’s Butterfly award was conceived from the Caterpillar award in early aviation days, given to pilots whose parachutes, made of silk, saved their lives when they parachuted from crashing planes. To us, the Butterfly represented a more gentle, graceful way to deal with an airplane engine failure – typical of Dee’s way of dealing with disaster. In proposing an amended version of Dee’s Butterfly award, we don’t want anyone to assume that its recipients have had to deal with an accident. This new award represents the winners’ mid-life flying achievements. We remember what an exemplary person Dee was by fulfilling her long held dream, later in her life. Dee had an exemplary flying record that brought her joy with the challenge of becoming a pilot. She shared her skills by flying recreationally and volunteering as an Operation Skywatch pilot. Dee sparkled when she was flying or when she joined her pilot sisterhood in other activities, like a butterfly which has emerged from a chrysalis!

Award Criteria

  • She must have completed her PPL on or after her 50th birthday.
  • She should live within the East Canada Section of the 99s but need not to be a 99s.
  • Ideally she demonstrates her support for other women pilots in some way, such as by becoming a mentor to other women learning to fly, by becoming actively involved in the Ninety-Nines, or a role model at a local flight school.