Elizabeth Weiben with Airplane

Elizabeth Wieben

Elizabeth Wieben 

  • Accomplishments related to: Aviation, Education, Business, Women's Advocacy
  • Major affiliations: Confederation College, Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre; the Ninety Nines (International Association for Women Pilots)

Elizabeth was born in Fort William as the oldest child of Orville Wieben, a well-known aviator and owner of Superior Airways. Like her four siblings, she learned to fly at an early age. She earned her pilot’s licence at 17, and by the time she finished high school was flying for her father's company.1 After completing a business degree at Western University, she returned to Fort William and worked in the family business as both a pilot and the manager of the Lakehead Flying School.

In the 1960's, Elizabeth married Robin Webster, a geologist, whose profession took them to both the United States and Australia. In addition to becoming a mother to four children during this time, Elizabeth continued to both fly and instruct, earning her licences wherever they travelled. In many places she encountered resistance as a woman pilot, as at the time it was legal discrimination to not hire a woman pilot. Her determination to fly established her as a trailblazer in seeking equal opportunities for women, and her efforts gave other women a role model in a male-dominated field, proving that women had a legitimate place in aviation.2 

In 1979, the family moved back to the Thunder Bay area because of her father's illness. As he passed, she undertook the sale of his business to his former employees, Superior Airways, while taking over a portion under the company name Wieben Air, a business chartering planes and camps at Pays Plat. In the 1980's through to the early 2000’s, Elizabeth taught adult education at Confederation College, but she soon transferred to the Confederation College Flight Division. There she taught both academic courses, such as business and technical aspects of the aviation business, and practical, such as teaching students to fly on floats and skis. During this time, she was also appointed to the Canadian Civil Aviation Tribunal, now known as the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada.

She retired in 2005 but did not slow down, becoming a founding Board member of the Northwestern Ontario Aviation Heritage Centre and later its president. Now in her 80s, Elizabeth still flies and offers private flying lessons out of the Thunder Bay Airport. For her enduring legacy as a pioneer in aviation, she received the prestigious Elsie McGill Northern Lights Award, an annual award that honours outstanding women in aviation and aerospace in Canada. Her contributions continue to serve as an example of dedication and a willingness to reach for greater heights for women in the Lakehead. 

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