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FROM THE Heritage Minutes COLLECTION
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Owing to the male-biased Service regulations of the time, the wishes of Canadian women pilots to fly with the RCAF during World War II were generally shot down. Nevertheless, as least one Canadian woman managed to fly military aircraft. Marion Orr paid for her own flying lessons in 1941, then went off to England where she got a position with the Air Transport Auxiliary ferry service, moving combat planes between airfields. By October 1944 she had accumulated 700 flying hours on 67 different types of planes.
"It was a continual challenge to fly so many different types," she recalled. "But an airplane is an airplane; maybe different speeds, different knobs, heavier, but that didn't bother me at all." After the war, Marion Orr returned to Canada and opened her own flying school. Some years later she became Canada's first woman helicopter pilot, gave helicopter lessons, and occasionally flew patrols for the Ontario Provincial Police. She received the Order of Canada in 1986, and was still flying at age 76. Marion Orr's long and colourful career in aviation ended in April, 1995, when she was killed in an automobile accident.
The principal role of the RCAF Women's Division was to free males for combat duties. Marion Orr was one of a small number of women who flew for the Air Transport Auxiliary, a separate agency that moved aircraft from base to base in England.
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