Posts Tagged ‘Women in Aviation’

Why we need GIFT

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

GIFT1 Tamara and CatherineThis week my Facebook and Twitter feeds have blown up with many smiling faces of ladies learning to fly, or getting back into flying. That’s because the skies of Vernon, Texas, are filled with the Girls in Flight Training (GIFT) participants.

I went out to GIFT last year and spent a couple days with the GIFT gang, led by designated pilot examiner Mary Latimer; her daughter, Tamara Griffith, a CFI; and granddaughter Amanda Griffith—who, at age 18, had just become a CFI. Here’s the complete article.

Briefly summarized, Mary wants to create more women pilots, and she does that by conducting a free week of flight instruction for women, aimed at helping them get over hurdles, or make them more comfortable with notion of flying. Here’s a video of the 2012 event.

Some people periodically question why we need programs like GIFT that are aimed at getting more women to fly; or Girls With Wings, which strives to introduce girls to flight at a young age; or the global Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, which seeks to celebrate women in aviation while introducing women to the opportunities that aviation offers.

Their arguments generally run along these lines: Women aren’t being held back from flying, so why should a special effort be made to include them?

The best counter-argument to that likely comes in the form of a survey of airline travelers conducted in the United Kingdom, published this week in the U.K. Telegraph. The survey found that 51 percent of respondents said they would be “less likely” to trust a female pilot. The survey polled nearly 2,400 survey respondents, all of whom had taken a flight in the previous year, according to an article in the Telegraph.

It would be easy to say that the British survey respondents are harboring some stereotypes, or that perhaps they just are a little off-base in what they want from an airline crew. (A survey conducted in 2012 among 1,000 British travelers found that a majority of respondents prefer their airline pilots have a Home Counties accent—I’m not sure what that is—and they found Cockney and midlands accents least reassuring. But I digress.)

I’d like to think that a survey of 2,400 U.S. travelers would be a little more progressive in their responses–but I can’t say for certain that they would be. Women make up just 6 percent of the U.S. pilot population and represent 5 percent of airline cockpit crews. So, until such time as the sight of a woman in an airline uniform is as unremarkable as the sight of a woman in a doctor’s white coat or any other professional occupation, I will say that we need female-centric programs like GIFT (and GWW, and WOAW, and the Ninety-Nines, and Women in Aviation International…).—Jill W. Tallman

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A GIFT in Texas

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

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

This student pilot is a “Shining Star”

Monday, March 12th, 2012

I collected my registration materials at the Women in Aviation International conference in Dallas last week and slung my name tag on its lanyard around my neck. Heading back to the elevator, I boarded a car with three other gentlemen.

One of the men noticed my name tag and asked, “Are you with Women of Aviation?” I am. “Are you a pilot?” Yes. “How long have you been flying?” Eleven years, I said, and I fly a Piper Cherokee.

The man’s face lit up. “I’m a student pilot,” he said. “I’ve been at it awhile.” He said something about his music career keeps him busy. When I asked if he had ever read Flight Training, he looked quizzical, so I offered to send him a copy of the magazine. Did he have a business card? He didn’t. Did I have a business card? Yes, I did. I started fumbling in my purse for one while he held the elevator door at my stop.

As I handed him my card, he said, “Maybe you’ve heard of our group. Earth, Wind, and Fire.”

That’s when I said something like “OhmygoshIloveyourmusicsendmeyouremailandI’llsendyouamagazine!” And the elevator doors closed.

I went online and found out that I had been talking to Verdine White, who, with his brother, Maurice, founded the group about 40 years ago. I wish we’d had more time to talk about flying, and I kind of think Verdine felt that way too. — Jill W. Tallman