WORDS BY GEOFF CRANE
Article from Mount Royal University website.
Sophia Wells is used to hearing “no.” Now, she uses her history with that word to inspire hundreds of women and young girls to consider the male-dominated world of aviation as a career path.
When she was a senior in high school and a successful air cadet, Wells applied to join the Canadian Forces but was turned down over a poor score on a surprise test. She thought her dreams of flying would remain just that.
“I was crushed. At 17 I was wondering what I was going to do. Coming from a small town, I had no idea how pilots go about becoming pilots. I thought it was military or bust,” Wells says.
While attending Mount Royal and taking general studies, a chance encounter with the school’s flight simulator ended up putting Wells back on track to becoming a pilot.
During her first year of the demanding aviation program, Wells experienced another setback. She had still not completed her private licence due to challenging weather and was in danger of having to leave.
“I’m sitting in front of this board thinking ‘Here I go, I’m going to be out again,’ ” Wells says.
“The board members were really awesome, though. They said I’d probably had the worst luck with the weather they’d seen in forever, so they encouraged me to just keep trying and I said I’d find a way.”
Wells would go on to become a flight instructor with the Edmonton Flying Club, completing her Class One instructor rating at the age of 25, one of the youngest in Canada to do so.
Passionate about flying, Wells is also the director of advocacy at Elevate Aviation and is now the club’s chief flying instructor. The Edmonton-based not-for-profit organization promotes gender balance in the industry.
“I just want to provide this idea that the world is open to them,” Wells says of the women and young girls who are part of the Flight Path to Success mentorship program she runs for Elevate.
The program consists of more than 400 mentees and 150 mentors. The professional women in aviation share their passion with mentees and offer advice about how to succeed in the industry.
Additionally, Wells organizes week-long tour sessions in 21 cities across Canada, giving women, girls and members of Indigenous communities a behind-the-scenes look into aviation and the various career paths it offers.
Her refusal to take “no” as a final answer has allowed Wells to inspire hundreds of women.
In 2018, Wells was named to Wings magazine’s Top 20 Under 40: Agent of Change. In 2019, she is Mount Royal University’s Outstanding Alumni Award recipient.