Last week I attended my first Sun n Fun convention in Lakeland Florida. I have annually attended Oshkosh AirVenture for the past decade, but had not yet made it to Florida. Although I had work duties with AOPA and Mooney, I also was keenly aware that my deadline for this column would fall within my time at Sun n Fun. Attending the media briefing on Wednesday April 5th, I was intrigued to hear Katie McEntire Wiatt speak about her documentary project Fly Like a Girl. Later that day I was in the SNF announcer’s stand waiting for my interview. I saw a gentleman sporting a Fly Like a Girl shirt headed down the stairs. I quickly exclaimed, “Fly Like a Girl man, can I talk to you?” Come to find out the man I shouted to was the film’s producer Andy McEntire. We exchanged information and set up an interview with Katie later that day.
Katie and her crew met me at the Mooney Pavilion and we quickly started talking about this important and thoughtful documentary. According to Katie, “Fly Like a Girl explores the courageous history of women in aviation which reveals the contributions women have made to aviation and brings to light the many women who are doing extraordinary work in aviation and STEM today.” Fly Like a Girl also examines why many young girls don’t see themselves in STEM related fields and how society can begin to change this perception. Katie is a former elementary teacher. It was during her time as a primary school teacher that she first developed the idea for Fly Like a Girl. She saw first hand the gap in confidence young female students felt in the classroom, especially in relation to STEM subjects. “I remember one student in particular, she was struggling with a math problem. She said,“Ms. Wiatt, girls just aren’t good at math. The hope is that Fly Like a Girl will inspire girls and women who no longer want to be passengers.” Katie mentioned a recent study in Science Magazine found that young girls are less likely to think their own gender is smart. In order to change this narrative, it is crucial that girls and women see people like themselves, achieving great things in their fields. Three interviews have been completed and more are being scheduled for the remainder of 2017.
Patty Wagstaff-Three-time US National Aerobatic Champion, Enshrinee National Aviation Hall of Fame
“I think I have heard it all. In the early days people would treat you like a cute little girl instead of a competent pilot. Even today, if I don’t get recognized and I am taxiing in an airplane and there is a guy in the right seat and I am in the left seat. They always ask the man in the plane for the fuel order. I hear this from women all the time.”
Bernice “Bee” Haydu-World War II Women’s Air Service Patrol (WASP)
“A documentary like this is important because it educates people and it enlightens people as to one of the careers they could be doing that maybe they had not yet considered.”
Fly Like a Girl has been self-funded and crowd-funded. To support their Indiegogo fund click here . Check out their video trailer here. For more information on this grass-roots project please head to their website: http://www.flylikeagirl.film
What I experienced at Sun n Fun is an example of how aviation folks are the best folks. I never met a stranger, always greeted with a smile and a helping hand. We had every season weather-wise from 94 degrees to rain and wind. Through it all, I saw dear old friends, made some new ones, and found inspiration in projects like Fly Like a Girl. Count me in for #SNF18.