“Fly through the cloud Mom!!” cried my daughter a few weeks ago as I climbed up to 9,000 feet among a scattered layer altocumulus clouds on a flight from Des Moines to Kansas City. Addy is no stranger to the cockpit; in fact I often sense she’s a little too comfortable in an airplane, acting as though most kids are offered similar opportunities when unfortunately, it’s a rarity. But today and going forward, we aim to change that!
Today we celebrate “Girls in Aviation Day”, a day when the aviation community opens its wings to young girls and women alike, as a way to get them excited and more aware of the rewarding opportunities the aviation industry has to offer. Over 30 chapters around the world within the Women in Aviation International network will provide young girls with a first-hand look at aircraft, airport operations, air traffic control towers and more through a variety of activities today.
Why is this important?
In 1960, a mere 9,966 women held pilot certificates, ranging from student pilots to Airline Transport Pilot (ATP); women made up 2% of the entre pilot population that year. Looking at the FAA’s statistics today, the female pilot population has made strides but similar to the student pilot population today, these numbers are on an unfortunate decline. Take a look at a few 2014 FAA Civil Airmen Stats:
- 39,322: the estimated total of airmen certificates held by women in 2014
- 6%: the percentage of women pilots compared to the entire pilot population today
- -26%: the decline in the number of pilot certificates held by women between 1980 and 2014
The good news: you don’t have to be a pilot to introduce a young girl or child to aviation. It’s as simple as going to the airport for a picnic and watching airplanes take-off and land, attending a local airshow or visiting an aviation-themed museum. Exposing younger people to the unique opportunities the aviation industry has to offer can be life changing – many, if not all pilots would agree.
Every time I get a chance, I look over at Addy as we get ready to takeoff (or just before we fly through a cloud layer upon request!) and the look on her face is priceless. I continually remind her of how lucky she is (honestly, how lucky we are) to be afforded the opportunity to fly virtually anytime, anywhere we want. It’s important for our industry and the future of aviation to share these privileges with the younger generation - especially young girls!