Aviation History Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland’s first female pilot

by Gary Hebbard, Journalist and Aviation Enthusiast

One of Phyllis Penney’s fondest memories was that of a school holiday given immediately, when news was received of an aeroplane landing. The children were all permitted to run, walk or be driven to the airport to join in the excitement with the rest of the people. Her earliest recollection of wanting to fly centred around a radio programme about a young pilot called Howie Wing. Her prize possession was his picture dressed in appropriate flying attire, looking very handsome standing by his aeroplane. Other incentives were pilots in the family and working in the airline/travel industry.

During the war years, Phyllis went to Acadia University in Nova Scotia, returning to work with the Navy, both RN and RCN. After the war, in 1946 she went to Gander Airport, Nfld. and was hired at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as a Ground Hostess/Secretary to the Station Manager. She flew occasionally as extra crew to help with all the Dutch Immigrants and their babies travelling to the U.S.A. The babies travelled inside wicker baskets with windows that were placed one on top of the other in the rear of the plane.

It was inevitable that Phyllis Penney joined the small local Flying Club “Terra Nova Aviation” and took up flying. Her Student Pilot’s Permit was issued from the Dept. of Public Works in St. John’s Nfld., under the Air Navigation Act (1929) valid for one year from April 29, 1947. She solo’d in a Piper Cub, call sign VO-ABC on July 15, 1947 and received her Pilot’s Licence on August 10, 1947. Her Instructor was Ewan D. Boyd.

For a more complete recounting of Phyllis’s story, go to canadian99s.com