The winter storm that stranded thousands of travelers throughout the Northeast in the middle of February didn’t put a damper on this year’s annual Women in Aviation International (WAI) conference. In fact, a record 3,200 people attended the event, held February 15 to 17 at the Walt Disney World Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando, Fla. Conference organizers say they received just 127 cancellations.
Speakers at the event included Bonnie Dunbar, former astronaut and CEO of the Museum of Flight in Seattle; Virgin Galactic’s Will Whitehorn; USAF Thunderbird pilot Maj. Nicole Malachowski; Jane Middleton, finance director for Rockwell Collins, UK; Capt. Betty Uhrig, chief pilot for Chevron Global Aviation; Lisa Piccione, senior v-p of NBAA; and keynote banquet speaker, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Wendi Carpenter.
This year, as in years past, the presentation of scholarships was an integral part of the two-day networking event. Forty-nine people went home with more than $385,000 in scholarships that included funding for type ratings and new pilot certificates.
Corporate scholarship sponsors included Airbus, Boeing, CAE SimuFlite, Cessna, Continental Airlines (which also made 12 job offers at the conference), Delta Air Lines, Delta Connection Academy, Dassault Falcon Jet, Expressjet/Continental Express, FlightSafety International, Pratt & Whitney and Southwest Airlines. Women in Corporate Aviation–a member of WAI and NBAA–also offered a scholarship.
Founded in 1994, Women in Aviation International is a nonprofit organization of more than 7,000 members who provide networking, mentoring and scholarship opportunities for men and women in the aviation and aerospace industries. According to the FAA, of the nearly 700,000 active pilots in the U.S. less than 6 percent are women and only slightly more than 2 percent are ATP rated. Women account for slightly more than 2 percent of the more than 540,000 non-pilot aviation jobs in the U.S.