AIN Blog: Aviation Welcomes Young Women

 - March 12, 2013, 7:08 AM

“When I first started flying, I realized this was a lot easier than I thought, despite what the men said. In my humble opinion, girls make great pilots, and the best engineers.” – Patty Wagstaff.

Methinks the lady is onto something, but she already knows that.

Last Monday launched Women of Aviation Worldwide Week in honor of Raymonde de Laroche, who became the first licensed female pilot on March 8, 1910. Women-centric events have been taking place at airports around the world, as well as in museums and aerospace businesses. Special commemoration flights are often conducted.

Air France has acknowledged March 8 as International Women’s Day for several years. This year it celebrated the event with the largest ever all-female crew—two pilots and 22 flight attendants on board an Airbus A380 that flew from Paris to Washington as Air France Flight 054 last Friday. The very next day, another all-female crew took a Boeing 777-200 from Paris to Madagascar as Air France Flight 3578.

Air France noted that all-female flight crews often operate at various other times of the year, but the March 8 female crew has become an established tradition with the airline. “Whether they are flying to Beijing, Tokyo, Mexico City or today to Washington, these all-female flights are always a popular event for both crew and passengers,” the airline said.

The annual Women of Aviation Worldwide Week begins the Monday before March 8 and ends the Sunday after March 8. It was created to showcase women in aviation and encourage young girls and women to consider careers in aviation.

Mireille Goyer, founder and international team leader of the celebration, says, “The women of the past cracked the doors open; we intend to open them wide.” One major reason for the annual one-week event is to strengthen the message that women are welcome in aviation.

Last Tuesday, Wagstaff met with girls from St. Augustine High School’s Aerospace Academy at Northeast Florida Regional Airport. The field trip was put together by Gail Cullum, director of the St. Johns County Aerospace Academy. The academy has formed a partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where Cullum is an assistant professor, and offers an introduction to two career tracks—aviation and engineering.

“These are fields that girls were not traditionally steered toward,” Cullum said. “But that’s changing. It turns out that girls are very good at science, math and engineering, despite the fact that they were male-dominated disciplines in the past.”

Thirty-one girls from the aerospace academy met Wagstaff. “She’s definitely a huge inspiration,” said 16-year-old Cheyenne Matthews, who plans to attend flight school this summer. “Getting to meet her, hear her story and see her plane up close was great.”

All I have to add is, you go girls.