Awards honour flying pioneers

Students enrolled in the commercial aviation diploma program at Okanagan College will soon get a lift from new awards that recognize the achievements of two distinguished B.C. aviators.

The Roy Clemens Memorial Award in Aviation and Margaret Fane Rutledge Award in Aviation, valued at $1,000 each, celebrate their contributions to Canada’s aviation history.

“We’ve trained over 400 pilots since the program began in 1990,” says flight school director Marc Vanderaegen, of Southern Interior Flight Centre. “And the demand for pilots is only going to increase, with retirements looming in the big airlines. It’s a very exciting time to get into commercial aviation. This program gives students some great opportunities to connect with local employers and leaders in aviation from the moment they start training.”

Roy Clemens was born in Moose Jaw, Sask., in 1918. He served as a pilot and technical officer in the RCAF during the Second World War. In 1967, he moved to Kelowna to set up and run the Western Star manufacturing plant. It was here he rekindled his interest in flying, soon getting his pilot’s licence and building his own plane.

Clemens co-ordinated air search and rescue in the region for 35 years, retiring from that volunteer position at the age of 87. He was a founding member of the Kelowna Flying Club and the Kelowna branch of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and provided technical advice to aircraft builders all over the world. He died in 2013.

“Dad's greatest passion in life was flying—from his first flight in a crop duster at age eight, right up until the end of his life at age 95,” says his daughter, Patricia Campbell. “He inspired so many people to pursue flying – either as a career or as a hobby.”

Born in Edmonton in 1914, Margaret Fane Rutledge was the first woman west of Toronto to earn a commercial pilot’s licence. She overcame frequent discrimination in pursuit of her dream, as many airlines refused to hire women for the role.

"Aunt Margaret never saw herself as being special because she was a female pilot ... she was special because she was a pilot,” says Rutledge’s nephew, Graham Fane.

Rutledge persevered and ultimately piloted several flights for a Canadian airline and worked with a bush pilot outfit in Northern B.C. She also founded the "Flying Seven" – an elite group of Canadian female pilots associated with Amelia Earhart, based out of Vancouver. Rutledge died in 2004.

“She wasn't just a pilot. She was a role model for following your dreams,” says Fane.

Both the Roy Clemens and Margaret Fane Rutledge Award will each be awarded annually to a student who has completed the first year of full-time study in the commercial aviation program. 

For information on the program, contact Marc Vanderaegen at [email protected]


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