Capt. Nicole Lively is one of three women in the entire Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who currently fly the CH-149 Cormorant.
Flying high in the skies on this easily recognizable yellow helicopter, Lively conducts search and rescue missions out of Gander, NL.
Lively joined the CAF in Dec. 2006 following a lifelong passion for flying. Before joining the military, Lively was in the air cadets and received her private license through the program in the summer of 2005.
“Once I started flying that was it. I caught the bug and I wanted to continue pursuing that as a career,” recalled Lively.
In the last eleven years, Lively has been on too many missions to keep count of. Just this year alone, she’s already flown out on five search and rescue missions. However, her first search and rescue mission stands out to her the most.
At the time Lively was posted to a secondary search and rescue unit out of Cold Lake, AB.Flying out of a Griffon helicopter, she was called down to assist the RCMP during the Calgary floods of 2013.
“We ended up picking a family up out of the water, they were probably thigh-deep in river water, with the fire fighters on the scene. A mother, father and two children, got them over to the airport and when we landed and spooled down the engines, I looked back and the relief she [the mother] had, the stress she was carrying not knowing what was going to happen to her family, and then just that wave of relief that washed over her. I was able to capture that moment. That was one of the most memorable ones probably being my first one,” remembered Lively.
While posted to Gander, her missions have varied in nature from rescuing people stranded on vessels to more humanitarian missions helping the RCMP to find missing persons and in snowmobile accidents.
“In the aircraft, when we’re on a mission, it’s the real deal. I’m very focused. We want to help the people that are in distress or are missing,” said the pilot.
Though Lively is one of a handful of women in her role, she has never felt out-of-place.
“Throughout my entire pilot training, from the time I started to where I am know, there hasn’t been many of us at any one given time…However, I haven’t felt like I’ve been treated any different throughout my flying training. It’s always been great,” said Lively.
Lively now looks to the future and is working towards becoming an aircraft commander.
“I love my job. I love flying. I love that they’re paying me to do this. It’s fantastic,” said Lively.