GREENWOOD, NS – The first female in the Canadian Forces to fly an Aurora is now the face of a postage stamp inspired by her persistence in pursuit of a dream.
The Ninety-Nines, an international organization comprised of women pilots, has created a stamp to honour the noteworthy military career Capt. Mary Cameron-Kelly, who remains in active duty at 14 Wing Greenwood and is slated to celebrate her 37th anniversary in the military July 15.
“We have tried with our program to have a variety of women from a variety of different aspects of aviation,” said Marilyn Dickson, a spokesperson for the Canadian Ninety-Nines, in a recent interview.
“She is the second military woman that we’ve chosen and, largely, it’s because she was the first woman pilot to fly the Aurora and she has over 7,000 hours now flying it, which is significantly more than any other women.”
There was a time many moons ago when four-year-old Cameron-Kelly, now married with two grown children, was regularly spotted wearing a pilot’s hat her parents bought her while watching television in her family’s North Sydney home.
“Mary’s father served with the Canadian Army Corps during the Korean war, so she was attracted to the military. When she graduated from high school she joined the Canadian Air Force in 1981. Few women were seriously considered for pilot-training at that time,” wrote Dickson in a biographical overview of Cameron-Kelly’s fascination with aviation.
Cameron-Kelly’s pathway to becoming a pilot was not without some metaphorical failed takeoffs. She was initially rejected when she applied for pilot training and worked as an airframe technician until she was eventually accepted into the program.
“She showed her determination by earning a civilian private pilot license and participating in the Webster Competition. She placed second for Best Amateur Pilot in Canada,” wrote Dickson.
The airframe technician course instructor turned aviator became the first female in the Canadian Forces to fly the Aurora, a large, four-engine plane she worked on as a technician, in 1991. In 1995, she proved that her career would be one marked with multiple firsts when she was appointed the first female Maritime Patrol Crew Commander.
“In this role she recently commanded a team including six women (that) helped rescue nine fishermen just as their boat was sinking in Canada’s far north. She also flew to the Arabian Gulf, where she participated in Operation Apollo in the fight against terrorism. Following that operation, her crew flew the last Aurora home,” Dickson’s overview of Cameron-Kelly’s career reads.
The stamp, designed by Suzanne Wiltshire using photos by Master Cpl. Peter Redden, fittingly features Cameron-Kelly in the foreground and an Aurora in the distance. It will be launched during a ceremony taking place at the RCAF Museum adjacent to 14 Wing Greenwood July 15 at 1:30 p.m.
The regular letter postage stamp is solely available for purchase through the Ninety-Nines. The organization designs stamps thought Canada Post’s Picture Postage program to raise awareness of exceptional Canadian women pilots.
Stamps can be purchased at http://canadian99s.com/stamps