Canadian Aviatrix #73 – Violet Milstead (1919-2014)

Violet Beatrice Milstead was born on 17 October 1919 in Toronto, Ontario, to Harold Edward Milstead and Edith Martha Cox


1921 census

1931 census


Toronto ON

Toronto ON














Violet left school when she was 15 and began working in her mother’s wool shop. When her mother sold the store, Violet opened her own wool shop to help finance her flying.

On 3 January 1940, Violet passed her flying test and received PPL #3339, making her the 73rd female pilot in Canada. She was 20 years old.

Canadian Aviatrix #73 – Violet Milstead (1919-2014) 

Photo: The Leader Post (July 29, 1941)

On 9 April 1940, Violet became the twelfth women to hold a commercial pilot’s licence in Canada. Her instructor made her the subject of a film, to draw in new flying students.

In July 1941, she gained her instructors rating – the fourth woman in Canada. She trained pilots until fuel rationing ended civilian flying. In 1943, Violet joined the Air Transport Auxiliary and moved to England. After completing a six week training programme, cadets became Third Officers. Violet only spent six days at that rank, before training on more complex aircraft and being promoted to Second Officer. She trained on advanced twin engines and was promoted again, to First Officer. Before her last ATA flight in July 1945, Violet flew 47 different makes of aircraft and logged 623 hours, making her the longest-serving Canadian woman pilot with the ATA.

After the war, Violet returned to Canada and met William Arnold Warren (also a pilot). They were married in 1947 and began working as bush pilots. In 1950, they reopened the Windsor Flying Club. In 1952, the couple moved to Indonesia for a few years – Arnold worked as an instructor, but no one would hire a woman. After returning to Canada, Violet worked as a librarian and secretary and the couple continued to fly their own plane.

In 1978, the Ninety-Nines awarded the Amelia Earhart Medal to Violet for her contributions to aviation. She was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada (2004), had her face on a stamp (2009), was inducted as a member of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame (2010), and received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012).

Violet died in 2014, aged 94.

The First 100 Canadian Women Pilots


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