The women you see here all have one thing in common: They want to learn to fly. (And the state trooper in the background? He’s a student pilot.) As I write this, the ladies who are attending Mary Latimer’s Girls in Flight Training Academy at Wilbarger County Airport in Vernon, Texas, are hard at work, drilling through ground school, poring over sectional charts, and of course getting up in the air.
But there’s a lot more going on. There are friendships forming; the students are dealing with their concerns and fears about some aspects of flight training (stalls = yuck), and some of them are scaling mental hurdles that have prevented them from achieving their goals.
Latimer came up with the idea of an all-woman’s flight “camp” in 2011. For her first attempt (in which attendees aren’t charged for flight training, or housing, or food–only for the avgas they used), she had about 15 women. For this year’s event, which received some advance press in AOPA’s ePilot Flight Training newsletter and in Flight Training magazine, she had 40 or so sign up. That meant a scramble for enough housing, not to mention airplanes and flight instructors (who also donated their time), but if you have ever met Mary Latimer, you’d know that such minor details as not enough airplanes or instructors doesn’t phase her. She simply finds out a way to make everything work.
I spent some time with the GIFT attendees this past weekend, and I was struck by the fact that the women were so excited and so happy to be there. The perfect weather was another plus—I’m told Texas weather can be capricious this time of year, but blue skies and fairly light winds were forecast for the entire week. There was a lot of flying going on, and as soon as I get an update from Mary I’ll pass along the success stories. In the meantime, look for an article about women and flight training featuring the GIFT experience sometime in 2013.—Jill W. Tallman