International Women’s Day: Commemorating Mary Hansen

Mary’s instructor, Fred Way (right) in front of Gateway Aviation’s Luscombe 8 CF-GjB – one of three aircraft Mary Bednarz flew during her lessons.
Mary Bednarz

The Alberta Aviation Museum would like to express condolences to the family of Mary Hansen (née Bednarz) who peacefully passed away in September of 2020.  Originally from Sault Ste. Marie, Mary’s adventures eventually landed her in Edmonton where she settled and raised a family. In the spring of 1954, Mary’s girlfriend invited her on a sightseeing flight around Edmonton courtesy of Gateway Aviation, then surprised her by piloting the aircraft herself. Gateway Aviation was formed by Gordon Anderson, Lawrence Doran, and Patrick Campbell in 1952 as an aircraft charter company, with divisions for a flying school, a Cessna dealership, and an aircraft maintenance service. After the flight, the Gateway managers asked if Mary would be interested taking flying lessons, but she had to decline as she couldn’t afford it. The next day, Anderson sent her a dozen roses and a cheque for $100, with a note inviting her to take lessons and pay them back whenever she was able to. Flying with instructor Fred Way, Mary’s lessons over the next year in Gateway’s Luscombe 8s enthralled her, and she fell in love with the freedom and joy of flying, and was awarded a Private Pilot License in April of 1955. Sadly, with few prospects for female pilots, and a slew of University courses to finish, she wasn’t able to afford to keep flying. When she donated her license and logbook to the Alberta Aviation Museum in 2018 and shared her story, it was clear that she dearly treasured her year of flying in Edmonton for the rest of her life.

On behalf of the Alberta Aviation Museum, we would like to commemorate the tireless efforts women have contributed to the industry of aviation in our past, present, and future going forwards.  It is why we choose to host an annual celebration following International Women’s Day and during Women of Aviation Worldwide Week.

This year, due to COVID-19, we have partnered with STEM Sisters Edmonton and Elevate Aviation to bring you this year’s celebration online.  Soaring Opportunities: Exploring Women’s Roles and Contributions in Aviation is set to take place on March 13th from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. 

This is the first time these three organizations have come together to celebrate women’s past, present, and future contributions to the aviation industry. Discover the early pioneering stories of women aviators, trainers, and more! Engage with a professional panel of industry specialists. Ask questions, participate in discussions and break down barriers to a burgeoning inclusive industry!   Whether you are wanting to learn more about industry, considering a career change, or would like to connect with other like-minded professionals, there is something for everyone!

Participation is free, but registration is required to receive the link to the celebration.