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N.K. pilot wins first-to-solo challenge

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North Kildonan resident Lindsay Kitson (left) is shown with flight instructor Sandra Proulx after winning the First-to-Solo Contest as part of the International Women of Aviation Worldwide's Women of Aviation Week.

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North Kildonan resident Lindsay Kitson (left) is shown with flight instructor Sandra Proulx after winning the First-to-Solo Contest as part of the International Women of Aviation Worldwide's Women of Aviation Week. Photo Store

Lindsay Kitson let her imagination take flight, and now she has, too.

The 29-year-old North Kildonan resident was named the winner of the Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide’s First-to-Solo Challenge. She was the first woman to fly without an instructor among the 700-plus participants in the challenge.

Kitson had her first flying lesson at Harv’s Air in St. Andrews on March 9, just a couple of days after registration, and flew solo on April 17. She won a prize package worth approximately $700 for the feat.

After training four days a week, she estimated she had approximately 35 hours of training before her solo experience.

Kitson, who has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, said she would likely have been able to solo even sooner than she did, but a delay in medical paperwork set her back approximately two weeks.

Flight instructor Sandra Proulx said most flyers are able to solo after about 20 hours of airborne instruction, and felt Kitson was ready at about that point. She added she’s seen stark improvement in Kitson during their time together.

"Her confidence has improved in the flying that she’s done," said Proulx. "Everything has improved, but she’s just more confident, which is normal for people when they’re learning."

Kitson, who grew up in Portage la Prairie, near aviation hub Southport, said she didn’t grow up with any flying influence in her family, but it’s something that was always in the back of her mind.

"I tried to avoid it for a long time because I was afraid of failing," she said. "I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of flight, and my other main hobby is writing. Eventually, my writing gravitated towards stuff to do with flying."

Kitson said she started off writing science fiction before progressing into steampunk and dieselpunk work, and noted characters in her most recent work flew airplanes, which drew her to researching the machines.

When she had to fly commercially to Vancouver, her first flight in several years, she realized how much she enjoyed being in the air and looked into taking lessons.

Kitson explained she initially hoped to pursue a career as a writer, especially after winning a short story contest at the Keycon Science Fiction Fantasy Convention in 2006, but now would like to secure a job in the aviation field, listing off options ranging from water bomber to power-line inspector in addition to commercial options.

"I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up," she said.

Kitson is currently training for her private pilot’s flight test, which would allow her to take passengers.

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