That's how a friend's six-year old son, Jay, reacted when I told him I was learning to fly. I hugged him and assured him that lots of "girls" loved the sky and airplanes big and small. Saucer-eyed, he embraced that bit of information with a smile and a big "Wow!"
Jay's was a typical reaction in the mid-80s, a time when the 60s bra-burning fires were smoldering and aviation doors just starting to creek open to women. I was one of three female student pilots was at the large training school at MacArthur Airport at Long Island, NY (which had but one female flight instructor), and voices of "lady" transport pilots and controllers were becoming regular fare on NY ATC communications.
The Women In Aviation International Conference at Orlando, Fla., Feb. 15-17 demonstrated how far women have progressed in aviation. The yearly gathering brings together woman pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, dispatchers, controllers, airport managers -- you name the aviation-related field--in the civil and military sectors. Here, they network, learn, and are inspired to advance their careers in aviation.
This year 150 exhibitors and 3,200 participants converged at Orlando's Walt Disney World's Coronado Springs Resort. Scholarships worth more than $385,000 were awarded to 49 lucky people. Cessna Aircraft Company awarded two flight training scholarships, one for $5,000 for a Private Pilot license and another, $18,800, for a Citation Encore type rating. ExpressJet offered on on-site scholarship for a regional jet transition training course. Then Continental hired 15 of its scholarship applicants on the spot. See http://www.wai.org
Lisa Piccione, National Business Aviation Assn. senior vice president-government affairs, represented the corporate world of flying. She's had a 20-year career in aviation--with Delta Air Lines and the House Aviation Subcommittee among her credentials.
Women in military aviation were well represented, including fighter pilots, and a USAF Thunderbird pilot -- and USNavy Rear Admiral Wendi Carpenter was keynote speaker.
Can't you just hear Jay say, "Wow!"?
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos courtesy of Women in Aviation International, by John Riedel and Paula Grubb.