Women's History Month (4 of 5): Major (Ret.) Deanna Brasseur

Major (Ret.) Deanna Brasseur, Canada's first female jet fighter pilot, explains how changes to Canadian Armed Forces rules and laws in 1979 allowed her to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a pilot.

Women's History Month (4 of 5): Major (Ret.) Deanna Brasseur - Transcript

"A given step, however small it may appear to one, may represent a great deal to another. Every hurdle one surpasses makes one grow. I am just glad I was given the opportunity, resources, and support to surpass the hurdles that came my way."

Julie Payette, Canadian astronaut

I was one of the first four women to begin pilot training in the Canadian Forces back in 1979, when they first opened the classification to women.

My name is Major Deanna Brasseur.

On screen: Major Deanna Brasseur, retired from the Canadian Armed Forces

My father was in the Air Force, and I was raised on Air Force bases and radar stations. I used to ride my bike out to the end of the runway and watch the pilots come in and land, and always thought boys were really lucky that they got to do the exciting jobs. This was in the early '60s, and I thought, you know, if women were allowed, I would like to become a pilot.

The first barrier was the fact that the laws had to be changed.

One other barrier, I supposed, would be convincing those in the power of decision making that you are capable and competent and deserve the opportunity, basically.

Some of the gentlemen didn't hesitate to tell us that they didn't think we should be pilots.

Once you proved that you were capable and competent, and you passed the same trips that they did, their confidence in you grew. And that wasn't a gender issue. Because even amongst the guys, they don't … they … you only trust each other when you can demonstrate capability and competency. And so it doesn't matter what colour, what race, what religion, what gender. It's about, "hey, if I'm going to fly off your wing and you're going to fly off mine, we'd better be good at what we're doing because I want to live to talk about it."

There was a lot of pressure. Because there were people to remind you that you were doing this for all women.

On Screen: "With the number of 'firsts' to your credit, you are a role model for others who will follow in your footsteps."

Then you realize, oh my God! What if, what if I fail, and I'm the cause that nobody else gets a chance? So that's where a lot of pressure came from, was wanting to do well not because I just wanted to do well for me, but thinking wow, you know, you don't want to let anybody else down, or you want everybody else to have an opportunity.

I suppose if I could start at the very beginning all over again and do absolutely everything totally the same except for one thing I would want to have more fun. I would put less pressure on myself and enjoy the ride more. So.

Special thanks to
Major (Ret.) Deanna Brasseur

For its gracious collaboration, thank you to
Canada Aviation and Space Museum


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