HomeDomesticMeet True North Airways' newest — and youngest — commercial pilot

Meet True North Airways’ newest — and youngest — commercial pilot

Isabel Fredette was 14 when she decided she wanted to become a pilot.

She was a passenger with her pilot dad, who was practicing touch-and-go landing manoeuvres through narrows, which is a restricted water passage.

“[The water] was kind of glassy, which is when the water is just perfect glass, there’s straight reflection,” the now 18 year-old Fredette 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.”

The Sudbury woman recently passed all the requirements needed, and has obtained her commercial pilot’s licence. She was 16 when she got her private licence to fly.

“Commercial just means you can get pay for hire, you could get a job flying,” Fredette said.

The base for True North Airways, a private charter airline, is on Whitewater Lake in Azilda. It has seven commercial pilots. (Angela Gemmill/ CBC )

She is the newest pilot for True North Airlines, a private charter airline based on Whitewater Lake in Azilda. 

Co-owner Michelle Hayden said she 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,” she said.

Fredette will mostly deliver supplies and check on guests staying at remote fishing resorts north of Sudbury. However, she may also provide training to other aspiring pilots who need flight time hours.

“I think her skills will speak for themselves,” Hayden said, adding that some of the older generation might be harder to convince that a teenager can fly their 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,” she added.

Teenaged, female pilot stands beside float plane she will be flying.
This is the Cessna float plane that Isabel Fredette will be flying this summer for True North Airlines. The 18-year old is the newest and youngest commercial pilot to fly for the company. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

For Fredette there was a lot of hard work and effort that went into getting her pilot’s licence.

She had to maintain high grades during ground school, which is the studying portion. That requires a written exam through Transport Canada. 

“There’s flight training and you have to do so much time with an instructor and then by yourself and a certain amount of cross countries and distance.” 

“For the commercial [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.”

When she finished all the requirements for her private pilot’s license she was just 16.

“But you can’t hold a licence at 16, so they gave me a recreational permit which is ….more restrictions.” She was given her private pilot’s licence when she turned 17. Once she turned 18 she completed what she needed for the commercial pilot’s licence.

This is actually Fredette’s third summer working at True North Airways, as she was a dock hand before being hired as a pilot.

That first summer working there she didn’t yet have her driver’s licence, so she flew her dad’s plane to get to work.

“I was flying to work for the whole summer,” Fredette said. 

Licenced to fly

Fredette’s flight training also allows her to land planes with wheels on land.

“I’ve actually went to Billy Bishop [Airport in downtown Toronto]

“Flying around the CN Tower is kind of cool.”

Fredette said that it was during that flight that she was acutely aware of the difference between airspace in Toronto and airspace in Sudbury.

“Over there everything is controlled and you have to be aware of that,” she said.

‘Worth it when you get to go flying’

Her 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.”

 And she has 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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