‘Girls in Aviation Day’ poised to take off

Girls in Aviation Day poster 2015_giadSeptember 21, 2015 | It is important that the younger generation of females be aware of the significant women who have made great contributions to the field of flying. Thus, Women in Aviation International (WAI), which is based in West Alexandria, Ohio, and not too distant from the Wright home in Dayton, is sponsoring Girls in Aviation Day. The date is September 26, 2015, and during the events chapters of the nonprofit organization will attempt to transmit all of the passion and excitement of aviation and aerospace to adolescent and teenage girls.

Bessie Coleman First African-American Pilot - NASM GPN-2004-00027 photo

Bessie Coleman.

Youngsters will be told of the women who blazed the skies, performed amazing feats and set records in decades past. The early pioneer name listing includes the legendary Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart.

Amelia Earhart circa 1928. Photo: Los Angeles Daily News via Wikipedia

Amelia Earhart circa 1928.
Photo: Los Angeles Daily News via Wikipedia

During the educational process participating school-age girls will also almost certainly learn about the important roles of women in World War II. They will be told of America’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who ferried the sleek and fast fighters and large bombers around the country and elsewhere. The more than 1,000 WASP pilots flew in excess of 70,000,000 million miles and delivered some 12,650 airplanes.

WASP Florene Watson preparing a P-51D-5NA for flight. Photo: USAF

WASP Florene Watson preparing a P-51D-5NA for flight.
Photo: USAF

At the same time in the United Kingdom ladies of the Women’s Section/Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) ferried aircraft from factories to Royal Air Force bases.

Willa Beatrice Brown in CAP uniform. Photo: NARA 535717

Willa Beatrice Brown in CAP uniform. Photo: NARA 535717

Domestically, Willa Brown Chappell taught other blacks to fly at the Coffee School of Aeronautics which she founded with her husband. This institution was the first U.S. Government-approved school of aviation for blacks. In 1942 Willa became the first African-American woman member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), which is also now the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary.

Eileen Collins. Photo: NASA GPN-2000-001177

Eileen Collins.
Photo: NASA GPN-2000-001177

From WWII to the present women have unceasingly continued to set aviation records and perform at air shows.

In 1973 Emily Howell Warner became the first permanent woman pilot for a scheduled U.S. passenger airline and in 1976 became the first airline captain. Betty Skelton Frankman won the Women’s International Aerobatic Championships in 1948, 1949 and 1950. In 1964, Geraldine Mock became the first woman to fly around the world. Notably, this global flight made Geraldine the first woman to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in a single-engine airplane! A few years afterward aviatrix Patty Wagstaff became a three-time U.S. National Acrobatic Champion and six-time member of the U.S. National Aerobatic Team.

Lt. Col. Martha McSally with A-10. Photo: USAF

Lt. Col. Martha McSally with A-10.
Photo: USAF

Within the subsequent time period a number of women pilots have assumed leadership roles. One is U.S. Congresswoman Martha McSally, a former Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II (also known endearingly as the ‘Warthog’) pilot and commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 354th Fighter Squadron. In her military career Congresswoman McSally logged some 325 combat hours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Another is previous U.S. Navy aviator Stacie Rine who rose through the pilot ranks to command a squadron of Lockheed P-3 Orion antisubmarine aircraft. After her military service Ms. Rine eventually accepted employment with the famous SUN ‘n FUN air show and industry exhibition organization in Lakeland, Florida.

Stacie Rine at fantasy of Flight. Photo: John Stemple

Stacie Rine at Fantasy of Flight.
Photo: John Stemple

Jeana Yeager.

A few additional notables are astronaut Eileen Collins, Jeana Yeager, copilot of first airplane to fly around the world without stops or refueling, and U.S. Air Force officer, former Thunderbirds team member and F-16C/D pilot  Nicole Malachowski.

Nicole Malachowski. - Photo: USAF 2007 photo

Nicole Malachowski. – Photo: USAF 2007 photo

Young women continue the legacy of meeting and setting standards in aviation and aerospace. U.S. Air Force Reserve Major Julie Moore, an F-16 Fighting Falcon (also known as the ‘Viper) pilot continues to fly and teach.

Tracy Hamer and Beaver in Alaska.
Photo: Luke Hamer

Tracy in Alaska with Beaver 5x7 with text

Tracy Hamer in Alaska on a Beaver.

There are others. Tracy Hamer, a graduate of the Liberty University School of Aeronautics, is a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and exceedingly competent deHavilland Beaver bush pilot. Tracy joyfully cavorts in the pristine skies of Alaska with eagles and seabirds.

Taylor Lafferty flies blimps and dirigibles for Goodyear. Yesenia Shaffer, who is a single mother, persevered through difficult times to earn her pilot’s license and advanced ratings, and dedicated and determined Caroline Brozovich strove to achieve CFI and corporate jet captain status. Caroline now flies around the globe and continues to advance her career through hard work and study.

Blimp Captain TaylorLaverty. Photo: John Stemple

Blimp Captain Taylor Laverty.
Photo: John Stemple

Recognizing the importance of mentoring tomorrow’s generation, Caroline Brozovich agreed to answer a few questions about her experiences as a modern-day aviator.

Caroline Brozovich poses with light Sport Airplane.

Caroline Brozovich with Light Sport Airplane.

When asked at what point in her life she become fascinated with aviation Caroline replied, “I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I became fascinated with aviation, but I remember that specific day perfectly! My dad took me to a car show and we happened to meet a pilot that was giving discovery flights. The flight was magical, and from that point forward I knew I wanted to fly.”

What motivates Ms. Brozovich? “The best motivation for me has always been my past failures and my past achievements. I’m pretty competitive with myself and always try to top the last thing I did, whether it was a success or a failure. It’s pretty obvious to see why failure is a motivator: There’s so much room for improvement! Success is an even bigger motivator for me, however, because the margins for improvement are smaller and that means the challenge is more difficult; I find that enticing! My boyfriend and all my friends know not to let me win at anything. I’d rather fail miserably trying my hardest than earn something I don’t deserve,” she explained.

When asked how she pursues her dreams, Caroline stated the following: “I pursued my dream of flying in the same way I start out every day: I begin with a little planning. Each morning I decide what I would like to accomplish, and then I actually write out a list of tasks in the order that will be the most efficient use of my time.”

How did circumstances progress? Caroline Brozovich answered, “With flying, I did a LOT of research and planning. Now that’s not to say everything went exactly according to plan. In fact, my personal plan has changed at least 30-40 times in the last ten years! But that’s okay as long as I continually analyze my current situation and re-plan as necessary I will find my way.”

Caroline Brozovich teaching students to fly gliders. Photo: John Stemple

Caroline (red top) teaching high school students to fly gliders.
Photo: John Stemple

What about encountering obstacles in the field of aviation? “There’s plenty, whether it’s a broken airplane, not enough money for training, or tough weather. I’ve found that there are two foolproof methods of overcoming obstacles,” said Caroline.

Ms. Brozovich continued, “One is to take things one step at a time. Back away if you will from the big picture for a moment, and focus at the immediate task at hand.” She added, “Sometimes trying to do everything at once makes small tasks seem like mountains.”

“Another option is to ask for help! Aviation is such a welcoming community, everyone looks out for one another and is generally eager help other pilots get that extra leg up. You can ask for help from ATC or other pilots in the cockpit, your instructor, and even go online for answers! There are thousands of pilots who have tackled similar obstacles and have good ideas on how to overcome them. All you have to do is ask,” added Caroline. She additionally pointed out that WAI is a fantastic group of very smart and caring women who want to help.”

WAI volunteer mentors a girl.
Photo: WAI

Caroline Brozovich lovingly spoke about what flying means to her. “Flying to me means freedom and independence. I struggled though and earned each of my certificates and ratings on my own. Now I get to enjoy the benefits. It’s a very rewarding feeling. Each day I meet new people, go new places and am faced with challenges.”

She noted, “I can fly anywhere in the world or I can go on an amazing adventure with my friends, but the choice is mine.” Concluding her thoughts on the topic, Caroline said, “Having the option to do so many things and to share those experiences with other people is how flying benefits me.”

In response to a question as to whether she recommends careers in aviation and aerospace, Ms. Brozovich replied, “I absolutely recommend that girls pursue a career in aviation! Becoming a pilot has taught me so much more than how to use a control stick and rudder pedals. I’m confident, independent, and can think quickly on my feet. All of these qualities and assets have been nurtured and strengthened during my journey.”

Another WAI volunteer mentors a girl. Photo: WAI

A male WAI volunteer mentors a girl.
Photo: WAI

Caroline emphasized the following: “The aviation industry has so much to offer: You can fly, repair planes, control, or design airplanes or engineer [design] new engines. You can travel the world or stay comfortably at home. You can also fight fires, help cancer patients reach their treatment centers, plan flight routes or develop an airline’s business strategy. There really is no end to the list of opportunities available in aviation.” Caroline Brozovich concluded by saying, “If you are even the tiniest bit curious, go for it! You can always change your course later on, but you don’t know until you try it.”

With enthusiastic role models such as Ms. Brozovich it is no wonder one sees more and more girls staring up at vapor trails in the sky left by commercial and military aircraft traveling the highways in the sky. Caroline would agree that for girls with drive, “The sky truly is just the beginning!”
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The author (John Stemple) thanks Patricia Luebke of Women in Aviation International, Caroline Brozovich, Tracy Hamer and Yesenia Shaffer in particular for their cooperation and assistance during the preparation of this article.

Suggested Viewings

100 Years of Women in Aviation

Amelia Mary Earhart Documentary

Alaskan Women Bush Pilots

An Evening with America’s First Female Thunderbird Pilot [Nicole Malachowski]

Betty Skelton Erde

EAA Airventure 2014: Patty Wagstaff

Eileen Collins: Space Pioneer

Into the Blue: The Jeana Yeager Story

One Central Florida Short: Daddy’s Little Fighter Pilot [Julie Moore]

Spitfire Sisters

The First Female African American Pilot

Veteran War Stories: Stacie Rine

WASP from the documentary “Wings of Their Own”

Willa Brown: An American Aviator

Women Air Service Pilots

Suggested Readings

Gibson, Karen Bush. Women Aviators: 26 Stories of Pioneer Flights, Daring Missions, and Record-Setting Journeys (Women of Action). Chicago: Chicago Review Press , 2013.

Pelletier, Alain. High-Flying Women: A World History of Female Pilots, Haynes Publishing, 2012.

Women in Aviation and Space History