Taking to the skies

Jeff Elliott
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St. Anthony’s Leanne Roberts, 17, receives private pilot’s license

Not many teenagers can say they were licensed to fly a plane before becoming a licensed driver, but Leanne Roberts doesn’t mind soaring 5,500 feet above the rest.

Taking to the skies in a Cessna 172N for the first time earlier this summer, the St. Anthony native didn’t allow her composure to falter as she ascended high above the Kings County municipal airport in Waterville, Nova Scotia. 

It wasn’t until she stepped out of the plane after landing that the reality of her first solo flight hit her: a waterfall of accolade that poured from seven separate buckets, as fellow cadets honored her with a “solo soaking”.

“They do that to every cadet after their first,” laughed Roberts, in reference to the traditional drenching.

After turning 17 years old on Aug. 28, Roberts was awarded her private pilot’s license and coveted Royal Canadian Air Cadet wings qualification badge after attending a seven-week Power Pilot Scholarship training course this summer in Greenwood, Nova Scotia – making her the youngest cadet this year to achieve such a feat.

The cadets were selected out of 300 applicants for the prestigious award and she was just one of eight people to receive the honor from that specific location, as well as the only female in all of Atlantic Canada.

“It was really exciting,” she boasted, of the title.

The highly intensive summer program included a series of theoretical and practical lessons to train student pilots who have no previous experience in flight, with 45 hours of ground school and 45 hours of flying. Roberts, however, was well acquainted with aviation before the trip.

“After my first year of cadets I went away to a two-week general training course and they explained to us the different programs that Air Cadets offered,” she said. “When I found out you could get your private pilot’s license, it really interested me.”  

During her time as an air cadet, the White Hills Academy senior has continually worked her way towards wing status by attending a seven-week glider camp, as well as an advanced aviation course, mastering theory of flight, navigation, aircrew survival, and a plethora of additional training.

Over the course of this summer’s agenda she accomplished 16 successful solo flights – 18.5 hours worth of air time -- with her longest lasting three and a half hours.  All of which were in prep for the final determining flight.

“We had to write a Transport Canada exam, which requires a minimum of 60 per cent, and then it was the in-flight test where I had to take a qualified examiner as a passenger and they determine whether or not you’re proficient in flying,” said Roberts.

She whizzed through landings, and circuits, and forced approaches; she stayed calm during simulated engine failure, sideslips, and a stall. She even had to do a spiral dive recovery.

Clearly, proficiency wasn’t a problem.

“It’s quite an accomplishment on her part,” said Joseph McLean, G-Flight Instructor at Greenwood. “I think Leanne would be a great mentor for women interested in aviation, if she decides to promote it.”

While Roberts still has one year of high school remaining she’s adamant about applying to the Royal Canadian Air Force after she’s finished, with the goal of obtaining a commercial pilot’s license.

Until that fateful day, Roberts will continue fine-tuning her craft by visiting the airstrip in Gander from time-to-time.

“Now that I have my private pilot’s license, I can pretty much fly whenever I want to – I can rent a plane and take my friends up,” she said.  “But I’m thinking about a trip during Thanksgiving so I can take my family flying.”

Roberts is currently a Flight Sergeant with the 774 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. This will be her fifth year as a cadet.



Organizations: White Hills Academy, Transport Canada, Canadian Air Force

Geographic location: St. Anthony, Nova Scotia, Greenwood Kings Waterville Atlantic Canada Gander

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Recent comments

  • Jennifer Patey
    September 20, 2013 - 18:59

    Sooo proud of you Leanne... reach for the stars because the sky is no longer your limit!

  • Joan Blake
    September 20, 2013 - 05:55

    Way to go Leanne! Can't wait until you are flying commercial flights. I would be thrilled and honored to fly with such an amazing woman.

  • Michael Moore
    September 18, 2013 - 11:38

    My sincere congratulations to Flight Sergeant Roberts on her accomplishment! I remember the intoxicating feeling of success after completing my first solo flight and then again after receiving my pilot's license. Keep up the great flying!

  • wally
    September 17, 2013 - 17:48