Meet the newest, and youngest, commercial pilot at True North Airways in Ontario

·3 min read
Isabel Fredette, 18, of Sudbury, Ont., just completed the requirements for her commercial pilot's licence and will be working for True North Airways in Azilda. (Angela Gemmill/CBC - image credit)
Isabel Fredette, 18, of Sudbury, Ont., just completed the requirements for her commercial pilot's licence and will be working for True North Airways in Azilda. (Angela Gemmill/CBC - image credit)

Isabel Fredette was barely a teenager when she decided she wanted to become a pilot.

Just two years later, Fredette earned a private pilot's licence. Now 18, she's working for True North Airlines, a private charter airline based on Whitewater Lake in Azilda.

Fredette is a new high school graduate who plans to get into biology studies at Laurentian University in Sudbury this fall.

But this summer, she'll focus on her work at True North Airlines.

She recalled when she first was inspired to become a pilot.

At 14, she was a passenger with her dad, a pilot who was practising touch-and-go landing manoeuvres through narrows — a restricted water passage.

"[The water] was kind of glassy, which is, when the water is just perfect glass, there's straight reflection," she said.

"I just knew at that point that I would become a pilot and it was going to happen.

"Just watching my dad and getting to see things from above — I just love that. And I felt like I needed to be able to do that."

Angela Gemmill/ CBC
Angela Gemmill/ CBC

Michelle Hayden, co-owner of True North Airlines, had no hesitations hiring Fredette.

"She's always very self-led and she looks after things from start to finish, and she has a really thorough knowledge of airplanes, aircrafts and flying, so it's really nice to have somebody so confident to look after things, especially if I'm not here for the day."

Fredette's job is to mostly deliver supplies and check on guests staying at remote fishing resorts north of Sudbury. She may also provide training to other aspiring pilots who need flying hours.

"I think her skills will speak for themselves," Hayden said, acknowledging it might be harder to convince some people that a teenager can fly a plane.

"I hope people look at Isabel and the accomplishments she has at such a young age and I hope that inspires more people to get into a field that generally isn't for super super young females," added Hayden.

Angela Gemmill/CBC
Angela Gemmill/CBC

Getting her private pilot's licence required hard work and perseverance.

For the practical part of the program, she had to maintain high grades during ground school, including writing an exam through Transport Canada.

"There's flight training and you have to do so much time with an instructor and then by yourself" in the air.

During her studies to earn her commercial pilot's licence, "it's pretty much the same as the private [licence] — just the margins for error are much much tighter, which makes sense — you want everybody to be super proficient."

After finishing her requirements for her private licence at 16, she received a recreational permit, which allowed her to pilot a plane on her own.

At 17, she was legally able to get her private licence, leading up to more work to earn her commercial licence, including logging at least 200 hours of flight training.

Flying licence before driver's licence

This is Fredette's third summer working at True North Airways. She started as a dock hand, and because she didn't have her driver's licence during her first summer there, she ended up flying her plane to work.

As a pilot, some of her travels have taken her to Toronto.

"I've actually went to Billy Bishop [Airport]. Flying around the CN Tower is kind of cool."

Fredette's dream flight would be to Alaska "on bushwheels, which are big tundra tires that you can land on sandbars.

"That seems like a really awesome adventure."

Her advice for anyone thinking about becoming a pilot: "You're going to need to put in the work. The studying part is not fun at all. I can vouch for that — It's dry and boring," Fredette said.

"But it's all worth it when you get to go flying."

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