The Women in Aviation conference ended three days ago, and I am just now taking a breath. It was a great show in Atlanta, and I met many great people there at the Girls With Wings booth. I am happy to say I've gotten the booth down to a science - I can pack everything I need into a few boxes. It's not high tech - but it works. To the left is a picture of my booth (doesn't look like much when you consider how much I had to pay for it!) and the boxes that I had shipped to D'ann, my Army flight school stick buddy (class of '93) who lives near the hotel.
Last year I met a woman at another conference who showed me how to make this great t-shirt display out of PVC pipe. Every time I unpack it I have to re-learn how to put it together. It's a big puzzle. But it's light and packs well. I have a couple of other displays for miscellaneous little trinkets as well. It's amazing how much "stuff" I bought to set up my booth four years ago for the first time. I don't think (or at least I hope) that people notice the "homemade" feel of a lot of the stuff. After all, I'm trying to raise funds for the Penelope Pilot Project and Girls With Wings Scholarship. What's more important?
This is a picture of the finished booth. You can see the t-shirts stacked up behind the stand - pretty good system, no? And seated at the table are the 2 Saras. The Sara on the right is the wife of a guy I flew CE560s with at Flight Options, my previous employer. She is a dynamo, ex-firefighter, now co-pilot with her husband, manager of a flight school and aviation insurance agent. The Sarah to the left is her student. Sara 2 took it upon herself to handle all of the financial transactions, leaving me able to get out and talk to people at the conference and do interviews for AeroNews Network (I'll let you know when it's posted) and others.
But it's not all about me, right? Here is the entrance to the exhibit hall. With the theme of "A New Approach for Your Tomorrow," participants in the 2009 WAI Conference were immersed in the tactics and strategies necessary for successful aviation careers. More than 3,000 women and men from all segments of the aviation industry were expected to attend. Not only were there booths and exhibits from more than 120 companies and organizations, there were also seminars and workshops and educational sessions. Many attendees bring resumes in hopes of getting an on the spot job offer! Although NetJets isn't currently hiring, I did have the opportunity to answer questions of interested applicants at their booth. I appreciate NetJets support of my endeavors.
There was also a much anticipated, well attended Airline Pilot Panel on Saturday, February 28 from 1:30 pm - 2:20 pm that featured yours truly, Lynda Meeks (of NetJets), and Moderator Becky Howell (of SWA) as well as Carol Skiber (SWA), Samantha Wilson (Freedom Air), Michelle Booth (UPS). This session will explore the training, flight experiences and job related subjects for airline pilots. We all gave a brief intro and took questions from the audience. The best question was from a guy (yes, they attend the conference, too) asking how he should best set himself up for the post-furlough job market. My advice: stay in the aviation community. Even if you spend time "throwing bags" you're showing your dedication to the industry.
Luckily the conference is not all work. If not, I'd never be able to get such great volunteer help! We were able to get out on the town each night, enjoying each others' company and the southern hospitality of the locals (yes, even in big time Atlanta). We did go to a Women in Aviation event at the Georgia Aquarium, sponsored by AirTran, and Girl With Wings Kim got all gussied up! She had just gone back for seconds for the hors doerves line - hey, after working hard in the booth all day we needed sustenance. We were also able to spend a couple of hours at the aquarium looking at the incredible displays of underwater life. I highly recommend a visit if you go to Atlanta.
But alas, it all had to come to an end. The exhibit closed at 3pm on Saturday and therefore went from this (left) to that (right) in about 30 minutes! People tend to move quickly when it means they can get out of there... The woman packing up her booth is my good friend Barbara, of Plane Mercantile. She sells a great variety of vintage aviation gifts. I met her at my first attempt at face to face sales, the International 99s conference in DC several years ago. We follow each other to these shows every year.
And so the Women in Aviation 2009 Conference comes to an end. My sincere thanks to D'ann, Kim, and the 2 Saras for making it possible. I am grateful to the old friends and the new ones I have made for working for me for nothing, while they ensure the success of Girls With Wings organization (and Penelope Pilot Project). I would also like to thank visitors and customers of the booth that were enamored of the many adorable items in the Girls With Wings store and of the Girls With Wings "Flight Plan."