Breaking barriers: Q&A with women in aviation

This month we’re highlighting some of the women who work at the Fredericton International Airport (YFC). From CEO to training instructor and aircraft maintenance engineer, Commissionaire, station coordinator, air traffic controller and customer service experience specialist—it’s clear the sky is no longer the limit!

Training Instructor, Maria Mackwood wears a bright yellow vest and ear protection while heaving luggage onto a baggage tug, with a plane in the background.

Maria Mackwood has been a part of the aviation world since 2013, starting first on the ramp as a station attendant, then later becoming an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer and is now in her current role as a Training Instructor for Air Canada.

Q. Why did you decide to work in the world of aviation?

A: “The daily challenges and changes to the industry! Commercial aviation for any airline is a huge network of many different teams and departments working together to achieve a common goal. Any disruption, the operation must be able to adapt and work together to efficiently overcome and succeed at what we do.”

Commissionaire Crystal Starkey stands while leaning her hand against the terminal chairs. She wears her security black jacket.

With safety as YFC’s number one priority, Commissionaire Crystal Starkey is passionate about her role and is no stranger to providing excellent customer service.

Q. What’s one aspect of your job that never gets old?

A: “I never tire of watching families reunite and seeing their loved ones’ excitement,” says Crystal. “I love interacting with people and assisting them when necessary. It’s great to see all the kindness and caring smiles around YFC.”

Anna Waite smiles at the camera.

With a level head and years of expertise, YFC Station Coordinator for Maintair, Anna Waite works hard to coordinate the necessary logistics and create seamless communication behind the scenes. Fun fact, she’s also certified by five airlines!

Q. Who is a female trailblazer you admire?

A: “Rosella Bjornson became the first woman in North America to serve as First Officer on a jet airliner in mid 70’s,” says Anna. “She later became a Captain for a few Canadian airlines.”

“Working closely with Porter Airlines here at YFC, I’m so impressed by the number of women Captains and First Officers we see flying in and out of Fredericton,” says Anna. “The amount of all female crews has increased tremendously.”

“It is important people of all genders are given equal opportunities within the company at all levels,” says Anna. “Take a look around YFC, we have women in almost every department—it’s fantastic.”

Air Traffic Controller Shannon Cochrane sits in NAV CANADA’s tower with a radio in hand.

Air Traffic Controller Shannon Cochrane has been licensed in Fredericton for over eight years and has her private pilot’s license. She credits her dad, a pilot and former NAV CANADA employee, for sparking her passion to work in aviation.

Q. If someone is travelling to your community, what’s one thing they should experience?

A: “Anytime someone comes to visit New Brunswick, I always mention the amazing hikes leading to waterfalls located all around the province,” says Shannon. “The covered bridges are also a staple of New Brunswick [and] specific to Fredericton, the Boyce Farmers’ Market on Saturdays and the Garrison Night Market in the summer are my favourites. True east coast vibes of everyone being friendly and there to enjoy their day.”

Rosey Peterson, spécialiste du service à la clientèle, se tient debout, une main posée sur le comptoir d’Air Canada en salle d’embarquement.

With over a decade of serving the passengers at YFC, Customer Experience Specialist Rosey Peterson has seen many changes in the aviation industry. Rosey sheds light into those transformations.

Q. What are some of the benefits of having gender diversity in aviation?

A: “When I started at Air Canada, there was only one woman and 27 men,” says Rosey. “Today one in four are women. Shortly after I started, two more women joined me. We were our own cheer squad for years, always providing encouragement for advancement, celebrating our victories, and supporting one another through our setbacks.”

“We have women working fulltime here while raising families, running side businesses, and advancing their education. The brightest young women are here now in the beginning of their careers, full of passion and optimism.”

“It is hard not to be infected by it. The next generation is full of determination and passion for the industry—I cannot wait to see where they take themselves.”

Johanne Gallant, CEO and President of the Fredericton International Airport smiles at the camera.

Johanne Gallant is the CEO and President of the Fredericton International Airport and has worked in the aviation industry for over 20 years. By virtue of her hard work, Johanne was recently named one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Business of 2024.

Q. What do you love most about your job?

A: “Without a doubt, the people at the airport are what I enjoy the most about my role as the CEO and President of YFC,” states Johanne. “Our employees are the heart of our organization, and it is a pleasure to work with a diverse and amazing team.”

These YFC women are a testament of strength and resiliency, demonstrating anything is possible. From airside, to groundside, and everything in between, we all work together to make YFC run smoothly and efficiently.