By Jennifer Cairns 11 Nov 2022 6 min read

The youngest female to fly solo in Canada

Meet Brianna Ricketts, now Captain at Air Borealis DHC-6 Twin Otter, and the youngest female to have flown solo in Canada at just age 14.


Where did the dream start for you?

My love and dreams for flying started when I was 13 years old when I joined the Air Cadet Program in 2013. I flew solo at the age of 14 becoming The Youngest Female to fly solo in Canada. I continued my path through Air Cadets and received my Glider License at 16, and Private Pilot License at 17. I also became the Top Air Cadet of Newfoundland and Labrador. Then I received my Float endorsement at 17, Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor pilot jobs at 18 and hired with Air Borealis when I turned 19. I’m very fortunate to have my father (Brian Ricketts) supporting my path and owning a Cessna 172 on floats aircraft together. 

I am now 23 years old with 3,700 hours and have been recently upgraded to Captain with my company Air Borealis in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada. I’ve been flying up North for almost 4 years flying the legendary DHC-6 Twin Otter on wheels and floats.


Tell me about your job and what the day to day entails...

The job I do is very tough, there is no doubt about it. Labrador is one of the most challenging places to fly in the world. There are days when the wind chill is -50C and 80+ km/h wind in low visibility and the weather can be so unpredictable. You have to fly the plane plus load/offload 10,000+ pounds of freight at the communities in these extreme weather conditions. Each of our communities on the coast all have RNAV approaches but occasionally the weather is so bad that we can go a week or more without flying. Nain is the furthest Northern community we service and is definitely the most challenging. It has the shortest gravel airstrip on the coast of 1986 feet with the ocean on each end of it. You almost always have a crosswind, most times 30+ kts. Definitely keeps you on your toes!

Air Borealis is the lifeline for the Labrador Coast. We’re an essential service providing medivac services and without us grocery stores would never be stocked, babies wouldn’t have their diapers, Amazon packages wouldn’t be received. We also do outpost charters which is when we take the indigenous people into the country land for fishing/hunting trips. This is one of my favorites because we really do get to fly the Twin Otter to its limits. We have big tundra tires, STOL kits installed on our aircrafts (vortex generators, wing fences) we land on eskers and bogs in the middle of no where. Definitely a huge adrenaline rush! I’m so proud of the work I do. I’m truly honored. 

In the summer of 2020-2022 I was very lucky to have the experience of flying the Twin Otter on floats, not many people have float ratings in our company and I was very fortunate to be one of them. We bring fishermen into local fishing lodges, fuel drums, mining equipment for drilling exploration, boats and so much more. The float plane has changed my prospective of my aviation path. I fell in love with it and miss it every day. The people I worked with at the Otter Creek Seaplane Base were amazing. They taught me SO much and it really brought out the true Brianna Ricketts and shaped me into the pilot I dreamed to be. I will now continue flying floats for the rest of my life because of my experiences and I feel I have so much to give to float plane operations. Even though the job is tough, I do this work with pride and a smile on my face. I am honored to represent women as a pilot on the Canadian Labrador Coast. 


Why do you love your job?

Every day is different in my career, that’s why I love it. So many different challenges when it comes to making decisions on weather and winds. Now that I’ve recently been promoted through various pilot jobs to now Captain and the decisions are in my hands to always keep my passengers, First Officer and aircraft safe. Obviously, I have a lot of pressure on myself and being so young, people are always watching every move I make. I’m so happy I have to opportunity to prove myself and I’m more then capable of the challenges and look forward to what’s coming. 

I have so many people to thank such as my incredible parents who support me every single day, and my coworkers who have shaped me into the person and Pilot I am today. We have 20 Captains up here flying the coast and I have learned so much from each and every one of them and I cherish the time I’ve spent with them. Being a woman in this male-dominated field has been an honor. The way these male captains have taking me under their wing and make me feel included; it truly is remarkable. 


What would you advice aspiring pilots?

For anyone that is interested in a career in aviation or is searching for a job, always remember that hard work pays off. Always go to work with a smile on your face, cherish the moments with each and every person you fly with. Absorb everything and learn from each day, life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows but take those tough days and learn from them.

Live life to the fullest, enjoy every moment and always smile. You only live once. 


Make your dream a reality and apply for pilot jobs now.