Pilots take flight as Manitoba's first female Indigenous medevac team
Two Manitoba women teamed up this week to make aviation history.
Captain Robyn Shlachetka, 32, and first officer Raven Beardy, 27, formed what's believed to be the province's first female Indigenous medevac team.
Both are hoping to inspire more Indigenous women to become pilots.
Shlachetka has been piloting flights in Manitoba for the past 10 years.
The married mother of four has experience flying charters and freight but now works doing medevac flights for First Nation-owned Missinippi Airways.
When she worked with Beardy as her co-pilot for the first time earlier this week, the two women flew right into the history books.
"It was on my bucket list,” said Shlachetka. “I really wanted to fly with her because it was something different but we didn't realize that it would be the first."
"When I started my career I didn't know of other Indigenous female aviators. I never met one through my career until Raven."
Beardy said making history feels incredible.
"It just kind of happened by chance,” she said. “I'm actually on the opposite rotation as Robyn and I've actually been covering for someone else for the past three days.”
Both women were raised in northern Manitoba; Beardy from Shamattawa, Shlachetka from Wabowden.
The two women say doing medevac flights is a rewarding career.
"I just feel like medevac, you're kind of giving back to the community in a sense where you're helping people,” said Shlachetka. “It might even be the mother in me for all I know."
Beardy said this week has been special in more ways than one.
"I actually got to fly into my home community for a medevac flight. That was pretty surreal and it just felt pretty amazing."
Flying into northern communities for medevac flights isn't easy work.
Small airstrips and weather conditions can make the job difficult, challenges the pair has taken head on.
"I just focus on the front of the airplane while the nurse takes care of the back," said Beardy.
"We have blackout conditions because there's not much lights,” said Shlachetka. “We have whiteout conditions which would be blizzards."
By taking flight together the pilots hope to encourage more Indigenous women to take to the skies.
"It is opening people's eyes,” said Shlachetka. “It is opening doors for kids to realize that this is achievable."
Missinippi Airways general manager Ricky Brenton said the company is working to encourage more Indigenous women to become pilots.
Brenton said having Shlachetka and Beardy as role models to help inspire others will help with the company’s efforts.