REGINA -- Captain Denise Walters caught the flying bug early while growing up in Moose Jaw.

“I would rake up leaves and jump off the garage roof and try and make flying contraptions when I was small,” Walters said on Monday. “I have no idea where it came from. I’ve just always wanted to fly.”

Now, Walters flies a Boeing 777 with Air Canada. It’s the largest aircraft in the fleet, seating up to 450 passengers and with a cruising speed of nearly 900 kilometres per hour.

“It’s a huge responsibility and I take it very seriously,” she said. “I study a lot on my own time at home just to stay current on everything because there’s so much you have to know all the time.”

Family members of Walters still live in Moose Jaw, and they enjoy the perks of her jet-setting lifestyle. 

“Layovers, Europe is my favourite,” she said. “My mom always puts in an order from European grocery stores, so that’s kind of neat.”

It’s more than just her family gleaming with pride over her position.

Retired Air Canada Boeing 777 First Officer, Nanette Jozwiak, was Walters’ instructor for the first part of her 777 training.

“It’s really every pilot’s dream to be a captain on a wide body airplane and Denise has reached that,” Jozwiak said.  “She is a very humble individual, but the position that she holds is the highest position that you can hold at Air Canada and I’m really proud of her.”


Jozwiak said she sees more women training to be pilots now. However, it’s still a field dominated by men.

Jozwiak recalled one passenger’s reaction to an all women flight crew she was flying with.

“This gentleman got on and he looked at the two of us and he said to the person in charge, ‘Those two ladies aren’t going to be flying us down to Barbados, are they?’ And she said, ‘Yes sir they are and if you’re not happy, there’s the exit door,’” she said.

Regina Flying Club General Manager Audrey Kahovec said she didn’t have many women in aviation to look up to, but she was always inspired by Walters.

“I remember when I got the fly bug, my friend telling me, ‘Well my aunty, she’s a pilot and she works at Air Canada,’ and I remember thinking to myself, wow, I’m not going to be the first woman doing this,” she said. “There are other women that are in this industry, and for me, that was inspirational,” Kahovec said.  

Regardless of age or gender identity, Kahovec said it’s never too late to find a new passion and learn a new skill. 

Walters agreed.

“That’s part of the reason why we’re here is to inspire any young women or girls who feel like they might have an aptitude for aviation,” she said.