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On September 9, 1953, Canadian military officer Major Deanna (Dee) Marie Brasseur was born. Brasseur and corps colleague Captain Jane Foster were the first two female fighter pilots in the Canadian Armed Forces. This also made them the first two female fighter pilots in the world! The elite top percent of all aircraft pilots.

Brasseur had already learned a few things before she took the controls of her supersonic aircraft. She mastered combinations of maths, physics, physiology, meteorology, navigation, aerodynamics, and hours upon hours of familiarization with hydraulic systems, fuel and pressurization, and the functions of banks of flight controls. At the controls, Brasseur can navigate, communicate, assess and attend critical visual information in a highly changing environment. Not only does she have good eyesight she has a visual sense of geometry. During takeoff, she manages gravity and its pull on her own body while controlling the aircraft’s energy-to-weight ratio to make trade-offs between airspeed and altitude to maintain an efficient energy level for manoeuvring.

It is challenging to understand the second-to-second complexities of how much multi-tasking such a pilot processes. The cognitive control of such a pilot is studied during brain scans in university research. She is ultra sensitive to distracting information and significantly more accurate than her peers in sophisticated eye-hand coordination tasks. Her selective attention to only the critical details operates at the highest limits of human capability to make precision choices at high speed. Whether people are born with this ability or develop it because of their intense training requires future research.

Seeing. Assessing. Reacting. No do-overs or game resets. At supersonic speed. Brasseur thrived on all the challenges and split-second judgment calls.

Major Dee Brasseur and supersonic CF-18 “Hornet”

She had additional skills. An excellent communicator, Brasseur became her Armed Forces first Flight Instructor and first female Flight Commander. She was a demonstration and a test pilot and the first female Aircraft Accident Investigator, on all Canadian military aircraft.

Now a Member of the Order of Canada, Major Brasseur became a Reserve Officer after retiring from regular service with the Canadian Forces. She continues motivating women to dream large and pursue new opportunities.

B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage