Honouring the past celebrates accomplishments of today

10 November 2022 — Royal Canadian Air Force

As we approach Remembrance Day, Canadians are encouraged to reflect on those came before, those who lived and died in service to our nation. But few are aware of the men and women whose contributions to the war effort advanced technology and aerospace, supporting those fighting alongside our allies. Individuals such as Elsie MacGill.


Elsie was the first Canadian woman to graduate with a degree in electrical engineering, the first woman in North America with an advanced degree in aeronautics, and the world’s first woman to become an aircraft designer. She designed, oversaw production and was aboard the test flight of the Maple Leaf Trainer II. She was “Queen of the Hurricanes” and pivotal in the production of the Hawker Hurricane in Canada during World War II and designed a series of modifications including de-icing and skis to equip the plane for cold weather flying.

She went on to serve on aeronautical research and regulatory committees for the National Research Council and the United Nations. During her appointment to the Canadian Royal Commission on the Status of Women, she supported abortion and tax laws that made women responsible for themselves.

Among several awards, Elsie earned four honourary doctorates, made an officer of the Order of Canada, and The Ninety-Nines, Inc., International Organization of Women Pilots presented her with the Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship medallion.

All her work and achievements were accomplished even though she contracted polio at the age of 24. The only thing that this stopped was her deep desire to obtain a pilot’s certificate. However, from the rear seat of the Maple Leaf Trainer and for thousands of hours hovering over her engineering drafting table, Elsie flew.[1]


In 2009, in honour of this passionate woman, the Northern Lights Foundation launched the Elsie MacGill Awards, recognizing up to eight women for their contributions in specific aviation and aerospace disciplines. Honourees are named each year and they are recognized each fall at a gala dinner which highlights their life history through a combination of visuals, display materials, and speakers who have known her throughout her personal and business life.

The RCAF is proud to recognize Chief Warrant Officer Marlene Shillingford and Sergeant Stéphanie Angrand as 2022 Elsie MacGill award recipients in the Trailblazer and Education categories respectively. Lieutenant General Eric Kenny, Commander of the RCAF, along with Chief Warrant Officer Hall, CWO of the RCAF, were in attendance to congratulate the RCAF winners.  

“CWO Hall and I were extremely proud to witness two remarkable aviators receive this incredible honour for their work in aviation,” stated LGen Kenny. “It showcased two amazing people who serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Both women exemplify a passion for service and for supporting women in aviation. The Northern Lights Foundation’s vision to celebrate the contributions of Elsie MacGill by recognizing the dedication of women currently in aviation, whether it be in the RCAF or in the civilian domain is a cause we are thrilled to be a part of.”


As a Corporal, Marlene Shillingford was the first female technician selected to join the Snowbirds team in the 1993-1994 seasons; returning to fulfill the role of crew chief for the 2007 season.

Promoted to Sergeant in 2005, she was selected to the Air Command Academy in Borden, ON where she carried out the duties as a Primary Leadership Qualification Directing Staff training future junior leaders and involving them in community service with Habitat for Humanity as the Director of the Student Community Service Program.

In 2008, Marlene was promoted to Warrant Officer and posted overseas to Geilenkirchen, Germany with the Canadian Contingent at the NATO Airborne Early Warning & Control Force. She was employed as a Quality Assurance inspector for propulsion on the NATO AWACS, and later as a Staff Officer in the HQ A7 Exercises and Training Branch. Then, in Dec 2012 she was promoted to MWO and posted to Asticou in Gatineau, QC where she successfully completed second language training before being posted to the Canadian Forces Electronic Warfare Centre in Shirley’s Bay, Ottawa, Ontario as the Deputy Operations Officer. Marlene was invested into the Order of Military Merit in June 2014.

She was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer in June 2017 and posted to 12 Wing Shearwater as the 12 Air Maintenance Squadron (AMS) SCWO. She has completed the NATO NCO Intermediate Leadership Course in Lucerne, Switzerland, the NATO NCO Advanced Leadership Course in Oberammergau, Germany, and is a graduate of the Officer Professional Military Education Program (OPME). In March 2019, CWO Shillingford was appointed as WCWO at 15 Wing Moose Jaw. On 3 June, she was appointed as the 2 Canadian Air Division, Division CWO at 17 Wing, Winnipeg.

CWO Marlene Shillingford truly deserves the title of Trailblazer.


After joining the Canadian Forces in 2006 as an aircraft maintenance engineer, Stéphanie Angrand first posting was as an engine technician on the CF-18 jets in Cold Lake, Alberta. She got to travel all over with the jets and feel the power of afterburners with her bare hands. In 2013, she moved on to the civilian world of CRJs 700-900-1000 with Bombardier in Mirabel, Québec. She witnessed the C-series first flight ever and did some contracting work for Skyservice in Montréal.

Back with the military in 2015, Stéphanie worked on the CH-146 Griffon helicopters (Bell 412) in Saint-Hubert, Montréal, teaching the maintenance type course for three years. The teaching experience sparked her passion for teaching and mentoring. As an instructor at the Canadian Forces leadership and recruit school in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, she is a member of the team teaching the basic training course to all new recruits joining the Canadian Armed Forces.

Stéphanie continues to teach, mentor, encourage, highlight and help women find their voice and place in this industry. Along with Alisha Sohpaul, she co-founded Hangar Queens, a corporation soon to become a non-profit. Through instructional capsules, workshops, calls, and social media, she wants to help women thrive and grow in numbers, and turn this 2% of women AMEs into much more.

With her strong commitment to aviation education, especially for women, Sergeant Stéphanie Angrand deserves the Elsie MacGill Education award.


[1] Northern Lights Foundation

Two men and two women in military apparel, standing side-by-side smiling, with the two women in the middle each holding an award.

CWO Marlene Shillingford and Sgt Stéphanie Angrand, recipients of Elsie MacGill Awards, posing with Chief Warrant Officer Hall and Lieutenant General Eric Kenny at the award ceremony.

Image gallery

Two women smiling at the camera, with the woman on the right-hand side wearing military apparel and being presented with an award.

“I am very humbled and honored to be one of this year’s recipient of the Elsie MacGill Trailblazer Award. Thank you to the Northern Lights Aero Foundation for recognizing, celebrating and honoring the achievements of women in aviation not just this year but every year and also to my Division who took the time to nominate me. There have been many women like Elsie MacGill, who have paved the way for us. As a woman working in a male dominated trade like others, I always felt I had to prove myself up to a point. But I would add that many of the mentors that inspired and mentored me along the way were male, and I thank them for believing in me as well.”

CWO Marlene Shillingford, 2 Canadian Air Division CWO

Woman dressed in overalls smiling at camera and holding a pilot's helmet, posing in front of an aircraft marked with the inscription "Snowbirds."

As a Corporal, Marlene Shillingford was the first female technician selected to join the Snowbirds team in the 1993-1994 seasons; returning to fulfill the role of crew chief for the 2007 season.

Man in military uniform with his back to the camera shakes the hand of a woman in military uniform among other military personnel.

“My career in aviation and in the Royal Canadian Air Force has been incredibly rewarding and I’m honored to serve my country for the past 36 years. You can be whatever you want to be, you just need to be confident and believe in yourself. Work hard, don’t allow others to tell you that you can’t because you can, and dream big!”

CWO Marlene Shillingford, 2 Canadian Air Division CWO

Two women smiling at the camera, with the woman on the right-hand side wearing military apparel and being presented with an award.

Sergeant Stéphanie Angrand was awarded this year's Education Award from the Northern Lights Foundation's Elsie MacGill Awards.

Woman in military uniform standing over a table and manipulating hardware with her hands.

Sgt Angrand and her team won 6 of the 7 awards, including Best Team Spirit, Best Score on Composite Repair, and 1st place overall at the 2021 Ontario Aircraft Maintenance Conference Skills Challenge.

Woman in military uniform smiling at camera.

Sgt Stéphanie Angrand.

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