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Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail

danielle metcalfe chenail 300My first contact with the Canadian Aviation Historical Society was in Ottawa in late 2007. I had just begun researching the history of Laurentian Air Services, which had been based in that city, and I wanted to connect with people who had worked for them, or could steer me in the right direction.

The project had gotten its start that summer, when I had finished my MA at the University of British Columbia. While I could now call myself a trained historian and came from a family of airplane nuts, I actually knew very little about aviation. But I knew a good story, and an important one, when I saw it.

It turned out I was right to go to that CAHS meeting: I was immediately welcomed into the fold. Of course, I still had to prove my chops as an aviation researcher and writer (and rightly so), but the rivet counters were as helpful as they were rigorous.

When my book – called For the Love of Flying – came out in 2009, I was living in Wyoming. I came back to Canada, however, for a cross-country book tour. My husband, German Shepherd mix, and I drove from Quebec across the Prairies, and back down to the U.S. Along the way, I gave talks at CAHS chapters in Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Calgary and did signings at museums and heritage centres in North Bay, Sault-Ste-Marie, and others. At every stop, CAHS members came out to support me.

In 2010, I had the opportunity to give something back. I had just gotten settled in my new home in Edmonton when I jetted off to Montreal for the annual CAHS conference. At that event, buoyed by the camaraderie and the group's passion for Canada's aviation heritage, I signed up to be the new national membership secretary and to organize the 2011 convention in Edmonton.

Then, after a series of events, I ended up the national president, the first woman to hold the position in the society's 50 year history. I was 28 years old and a little daunted at the prospect of heading up a national charity with a long tradition and over 1000 members worldwide. But there was an excellent team approach with the executive and board, and I knew it would be a group effort.

As an entrepreneur with a writing background, my focus during my presidency was improving communications. I was really excited to manage the redesign of the website, create and edit a monthly e-newsletter, and launch an online membership option and the CAHS Facebook and Twitter accounts. These have all helped members connect with each other, and helped the media, scholars, and enthusiasts find the society in cyberspace and beyond.

In 2011, I stepped down from the position as I got ready to introduce a new little aviator into our family. I've stayed involved, though, first as vice-president and now as a director of the society.

I tell people I became an aviation historian by accident, but got hooked because of the great stories and people. It's also in large part because of the encouragement I've received from the CAHS.

I'm currently writing a book called Polar Winds: A Century of Flying the North, and have a historical novel in the works called Chasing Skies, about a female bush pilot who goes to Great Britain to fly for the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. I also write aviation book reviews and often find aviation angles for my freelance articles and columns.

For more information on me and my projects, please visit www.daniellemc.com or connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

The Journal

2010 Summer vol48 2 175