Sherwood Park's Rosella Bjornson recently received the Alberta Order of Excellence.
Bjornson was recognized for paving the way for women in aviation.
Growing up with a pilot for a father, her love of flying was created at an early age. Bjornson would often fly with her dad on the farm, sitting on his lap and sometimes even being allowed to use the controls.
"I just fell in love with it. It was so much fun."
According to the Alberta Order of Excellence organization, Bjornson received her piloting license before she was in Grade 12. After she graduated, she attended the University of Calgary, majoring in geography and geology. During that time, she earned both her commercial license and instructor's rating.
Her dedication and hard work paid off in 1973, when she was hired by an airline as a first officer.
"When I checked, there were no other women in Canada or the United States that had been hired as a first officer on jet equipment at that time," said Bjornson. "There were lots of women pilots before me, but none had been hired by an airline."
In 1990 she set another record, being promoted to the first female captain in Canada.
Bjornson not only paved the way for other women as a pilot, but also pushed for rule changes in aviation. At the time, if a woman became pregnant, she was automatically grounded and laid off from her job.
"I brought it to the attention of the authorities that this really wasn't fair because being pregnant does not automatically mean that you are incapacitated, you're still very functional. And they changed the ruling so that the woman could fly under the supervision of a doctor until the third trimester. "
After retiring, she joined the board of directors with Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame as the secretary treasurer as a volunteer. She ran the administration for ten years before stepping aside.
Throughout her entire career, Bjornson has also consistently been a strong advocate for more women in aviation.
"Aviation is a promising career for young women and if they take a look at it and if it interests them, then they should pursue it."
In October, Bjornson was awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence, the highest honour the Province of Alberta can bestow on a citizen. It is given to people who have made an outstanding provincial, national, or international impact.
"I was sort of overwhelmed and humbled because I don't think very many people get that honour. It was quite a surprise when they did call and let me know that I was receiving it."
The award was given at the Government House in Edmonton and was presented by the Lieutenant Governor, Lois Mitchell.
"It was a very formal ceremony," said Bjornson. "It was just beautifully done."