Oakville Aerospace Pioneer Recipient Of Northern Lights Award

Oakville Aerospace Pioneer Recipient Of Northern Lights Award

An Oakville Aerospace pioneer will be among those receiving the Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award during a special ceremony in Vaughan. 

Eva Martinez, director at Oakville’s UTC Aerospace Systems Landing Gear, is being recognized for her career in the Aerospace field, which saw her become an Aeronautical Engineer, serve as Canada’s First Female Military observer and, ultimately, become a director for one of the world’s largest suppliers of Technologically advanced Aerospace and defence products.

The Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award, named after the world’s first female Aircraft designer, recognizes outstanding women in Aviation and Aerospace to inspire and encourage increased participation in these industries by heightening their visibility as role models promoting awareness of the vast opportunities in all sectors and ensuring organizations recognize and benefit from women’s diverse talents.

I was very surprised. The nomination went in without me even knowing about it. It’s always exciting to learn that someone feels that way, that you are worthy of being nominated. 
To learn that I had actually been selected was definitely a surprise.
Martinez said her interest in aviation began at a young age and led her to join Air Cadets at the age of 14 with the hope of becoming a Pilot.

Fairly quickly, however, Martinez’s career took a turn toward leadership. During Air Cadets, she took senior leadership courses before taking command of her squadron.

The fact that she wore glasses hampered dreams of flying with the Canadian Forces.

However, Martinez found a new calling and graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada and the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Engineering Management and a specialty in Aerospace.

I decided to go the route of aeronautical engineering so I was basically on the ground fixing the airplanes. That was the career path that I took and it was amazing.

I did a tour in Greenwood, N.S., with a search and rescue squadron and did OJT all across Canada on almost all of Canada’s aviation fleet.

Martinez would serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1989-2002 as an Aeronautical Engineer, retiring with the rank of Major.
During this military career she helped the Chilean Air Force and the Guatemalan Army with the integration of women in their respective militaries.

In 1996, she also participated in the United Nations Mission to Guatemala as Canada’s first female military observer as part of an international contingent responsible for overseeing a ceasefire following the end of a 36-year-old civil war.
That was probably the highlight of my military career, said Martinez.

Various Spanish speaking officers from around the world there were 155 of us came together in Guatemala to oversee the ceasefire. There were six verification centres set up across the country where we would receive the ex combatants, the guerillas. They would come to these camps and we would take their weapons, their ammunition, their uniforms, and, in exchange, they would be given civilian clothing, a small allowance and basically an identity as a citizen.

The mission was expected to take six months, but was carried out in just three months.
Martinez said being part of a peace process was life changing and had no shortage of stories following the experience.

I was the only female on the mission so it certainly made for some interesting dynamics with the men (other international observers) I was serving with in terms of getting along and what women can and can’t do.

We set up our camp and the expectation was that I would be doing all the cooking. Another time, I volunteered to drive one of the four by fours and the thought was You are a woman. You can’t drive.’ I just had to deal with a lot of these archaic stereotypes.

Martinez is currently a director at Oakville’s UTC Aerospace Systems Landing Gear, a company responsible for the design, manufacture, assembly, testing and delivery of fully integrated landing gear.

The mother of three will be in good company during the awards ceremony, where Canada’s first woman astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar will give the keynote address after receiving the Northern Lights Pioneer Award.

Martinez participates in several boards including Women in Aerospace Canada, the Air Cadet League of Canada Ontario Provincial Committee, and the Spanish Speaking Education Network.

She lives with her husband Bill Foster and their three children, Emi (9) Ken (4), and Willa (3).

The Oakville resident is hoping young women and girls will learn a lesson from her story.
There isn’t anything that they can’t do. I feel very strongly that with the right educational background and the right passion, women can do anything, said Martinez.

You have to have a desire to do it and there is going to be hard work involved, but I have always found that the harder the work, the more rewarding it is at the end.

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Mohini Porwal [ B Sc]
Trainee News Editor
Canada Aviation News Editor