Eileen Vollick – Canada’s First Licensed Female Pilot
The Stamp Committee of the East Canada Section of the Ninety-Nines women pilots organization selects one Canadian female pilot each year, to honour with a commemorative stamp.
Excerpted from How I Became Canada’s First Licensed Woman Pilot by Eileen Vollick
Designed by Suzanne Wiltshire, the stamp shows Eileen Vollick in
the Curtiss Jenny, with an inset portrait of Eileen. On August 2, 1908, Mary Eileen Vane Riley was born in Wiarton to Marie and James Riley. Her father was killed in a mining accident shortly before her birth. When Marie later married George Vollick, her children took the name Vollick.
When Eileen was born, no Canadian had yet flown. Soon after McCurdy’s 1909 first Canadian flight, many men became pilots during WWI. After the war several bought war surplus planes and barnstormed or hauled supplies, reinforcing the notion that aviation was only for men. When the first Canadian flying school opened in 1927, 18-year-old Eileen Vollick asked if a girl could learn to fly. Months later, she received permission.
“The pilot who took me aloft thought he would frighten me. It is against the rules to ‘stunt’ with a passenger – spins, loops, the acid test for a new flyer. I got mine for half an hour.” His tactics didn’t work. Eileen found the stunts thrilling.
“In the cockpit fear never entered my head. When I saw the earth recede, the joy of it gave me a thrill. As proof that my sense of fear is small I took a parachute jump from the plane into the waters of Hamilton Bay from an altitude of 2,800 feet, the first Canadian girl to do so. It takes a great deal of confidence to walk the wing of an airplane and jump into space, especially when the controls are in the hands of a strange pilot. Parachute work however, was not my ambition. I wanted to fly.
Up early I left my cozy cot, drove to the airport, donned a flying suit. After ‘landing’ and‘rising’ several times, we flew back to port, full of early morning pep, which the sluggard abed can never comprehend. Eight a.m. found me on my way to the Hamilton Cotton Co., where I was textile analyst and assistant designer.
Before a license can be issued, the pilot must make four landings, from a height of 1500 feet, within 150 feet of a spot designated on the ground, one landing from 5000 feet with the motor shut off, five figure 8 (eight) turns between two designated marks, and a 175 mile cross-country flight. The day before the tests I had the pleasure of taking Captain Holmes, Government Inspector, for a flight, and he gave me great credit for the able manner in which I handled the plane. On March 13,1928, along with ten other cadets of the Elliot Flying School, I successfully passed the Government Civil Aviation examination, enabling me to earn the proud title of ‘Canada’s First Licensed Woman Pilot’ and made my dreams come true.”
Besides several other awards, on August 2, 2008, the 100th anniversary of Eileen’s birth, the Wiarton Keppel Airport named the Terminal Building after Eileen Vollick. A beautiful parkette honours her achievement.
You can order Eileen’s and other women who played a role in our Canadian aviation history… stamp page link here
The East Canada Section, Ninety-Nines are thrilled to celebrate these remarkable women with the custom postal stamps.
All the stamps are available in four formats. With each order purchasers receive a brief bio which we encourage them to copy and send with correspondence when using the stamps.
Domestic Postage sheets of 50 can be used as regular letter postage, even after future rate increases – $85.
A booklet of 12 stamps is useful for those desiring a smaller quantity for regular letter postage – $24.
The Keepsake sheet features 25 regular sized stamps plus one large stamp – $45.
A limited number of First Day Covers are available for $7 each. They will be of particular interest to the stamp collectors among friends and family.
Sheets of 50 stamps, Keepsake sheets and First Day Covers may be ordered directly on the stamp order page with credit card or by printing the order form and mailing it, along with a cheque, to Bev Fraser, Box 56060, Fiesta Outlet, Stoney Creek, ON, L8G 5C9. An additional $4 cost will be required for mail orders.
Please note that these stamps are not available at postal outlets.