Global Woman of Vision: Nancy McClure
This businesswoman is taking aviation up north — and spreading some Canadian spirit.
Nancy McClure is no stranger to the world of aviation. She flew her first plane solo at just 15 years old, and grew up helping her father with his civil aviation business, which he founded after a long career as a pilot. Working with her father taught her the value of hard work, and it also taught her something important — it was about more than just the flying. “My father was known across Canada and internationally as an aviator, but he never saw that as being his primary role. He saw his service and how you give back to others and how you participate in your community,” says McClure. As Executive Director of the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour 2017, McClure has been very invested in helping northern communities soar.
“We are a country where 40% of our land mass is north of 60, but 2% of Canadians have been north of 60,” says McClure. “And yet there are these amazing people with amazing stories that have lovely lives that they want to share with others.” When the buzz about Canada 150 celebrations began two years ago, McClure and other aviators in Rocky Mountain House came up with a plan to bringing airshows to northern communities — but in taking the helm, McClure had a clear vision of what she wanted, and what she didn’t want. “I love air shows, I love aviation, but [I said] if it’s just about airshows, I’m not in. It has to have something more to it. And the language I use around it is it’s about heritage, culture, education, social justice and national pride — delivered as airshows,” says McClure.
The tour involves 15 pilots with 97 air shows in 11 weeks, from early June to mid-August. In order to truly involve the communities, McClure had a small ask of them. She and her team would bring an airshow to them, no strings attached, but they wanted each community to create something to go along with it. It could involve anything from a BBQ to a cultural showcase, just something that allowed the communities to participate and take a certain degree of ownership over the event. “This is an opportunity for us to bring an event to people in the north, and at the same time, perhaps engage with them and showcase the north, it’s landscape, it’s people.”
Aviation has a particular significance in the north. Just as the railway opened the west, aviation opened the north. And it continues to play a significant role there, as the isolation of most of the communities means that flying in supplies is the only way for residents to get what they need, or to get out for medical attention. However, this also meant that planning and executing the tour was that much more difficult — McClure and her team had to bring whatever they needed with them to ensure they weren’t taking anything away from the community’s supply, and had to find accommodations for the whole team, about 30 people, in towns where they were hard to come by.
Running the tour in such a remote region is also expensive, and with no federal funding and little corporate support, McClure has created an opportunity for the public to support the mission — $25 buys a kilometre in the donor’s name on the 31,000-kilometre journey.
The tour is also set to break a Guinness world record as the longest series of airshows ever to run North of 60.
McClure is passionate about the project, and the response of the community has only heightened her belief in the importance of the tour. “I don’t care if you live in Edmonton or you live in Kugaaruk or you live in Pond Inlet, if you feel heard and valued, you have an opportunity for success. And I think that’s what we’re doing. We’re sitting and listening to them and trying to show them that they have value,” says McClure.