Thursday, May 31, 2012

Must read feedback from GWW AID 2012 - pt 2

I thanked a couple of people in Part 1 for their assistance before, during and after Aviation Inspiration Day, but it doesn't even come close to all of the people who joined in the effort to make AID a success. For example, Keith Jones, on our Board of Directors, and his friends, Victoria Neuville, U.S. Team Leader for Women of Aviation Week, and Rebecca Pickrell all helped to send out a massive number of emails to different organizations in the Twin Cities area to try to raise awareness and attendance. As usual, my dad also helped to let people know about the event and was able to bring in the not-so-local Minnesota Soaring Club on board. Phil brought his glider to the S. St. Paul Airport and in between storms set it up so people could take a look - it was a real hit!

The weather limited quite a few of our activities, not the least of which was the flying. We had a MN State Patrol Helicopter scheduled to arrive but Level 5 thunderstorms put the kibosh on that. The Commemorative Air Force Museum was planning on launching their North American B-25 "Miss Mitchell" ... but nope. At least the kids could still climb in and around their vintage aircraft and vehicles. That's a really special thing about the CAF - MN Wing museum.

The weather also hampered the events of EAA Chapter 1229 who volunteered to give Young Eagle flights to the attendees. And when I say volunteered, Mike and Joel totally gave, without any reimbursement, of their time, energy, airplanes and fuel to give the 40 some kids a short flight around the local area. Unfortunately, their generosity was not returned by Mother Nature - only a few kids were flown before she hurled hail down on their airplanes. They will now have to figure out how to follow through on all of those "rainchecks!"

We also were the recipients of some donations from several companies, especially Wipaire, Inc., who provided a free lunch to all of the attendees. We handed out bags, donated by Wings Financial, filled with goodies from Wings, Southwest Airlines, and Minnesota Department of Transportation, Aeronautics and Aviation division.

There are so many more people to thank, and I'll get them in subsequent entries.

So I wanted to end this blog entry with an email we got the morning after AID:

Hey Ladies, and all who helped to make Aviation Inspiration Day happen-

Thank you so much for the opportunity to meet all of you, and learn a bit about your passion for aviation. From the sparkle in your eyes, when speaking about your careers and hobbies, it's clear you all are doing what you love. I'm not sure who was more excited about the day, me, or the kids? I LOVED LOVED LOVED the message you were sending to the girls, about taking a challenge, doing something hard, and enjoying the benefits of your efforts. Doing something not because everyone else is doing it, but doing it because it's a unique opportunity to prove to yourself that you can do it, even if few others are, and when you try something new, you just might find your own sparkle.

I had brought my niece C, my daughter M and her twin brother B to the aviation day for two reasons. One, I wanted to show M - SHE CAN DO IT! M was saying she didn't want to fly in the plane before we got there, she just wanted to sit in one. Then she wouldn't even get in the jeep to go for a ride, "it didn't look safe". She also said that; "during the presentation, Kare 11 was there, so she put her hood up"...UUUUGH! I'm trying my best, to work on new approaches, to get M to be more confident in herself and try new things. She's struggling in school and I just can't seem to find enough opportunities to show her that YES..SHE CAN DO IT! Today's aviation inspiration day was the perfect opportunity to actually SHOW her, she can do it. The other reason I wanted to bring all of the kids to your aviation day; is because even at 9 years old, I've already seen so many more opportunities for M's twin brother B, than I do for her. B is doing very well in school, things seem to come very easy for him. He's more outgoing and enjoys trying new things. It was great for him to see that sometimes, his sister just needs a little more time and opportunity and she can do it just as well as he can!

We've been thinking of the pilots this evening; after all the hard work from the pilots and everyone else involved with todays Aviation Inspiration day, we are hoping everyone was able to go home and relax, and the planes were safe and sound at home as well. We saw the concern on the pilots faces, when the hail came down. We are hoping the planes remained unharmed.

We are looking forward to future events with Girls with wings, and other inspirational aviation activity days. I know the girls will be giving me frequent reminders to be checking my e-mail, to find out when they will actually get to ride in one of the planes.

Thank you all for the time and effort you put into our girls!
I love this email - it encapsulates what we're all about!

I just sent out a survey to all of the attendees from whom I received email addresses. I hope to have more feedback to show to you soon...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Natalie's First Scholarship Essay

Cleaning the windows
I want to personally thank Girls with Wings and the 99's for finding my story worthy of the 2012 Girl's with Wings Scholarship. This will help me to finalize my last hours as a Student Pilot becoming a true Lady Aviator, a dream finally coming true.

My aviation journey started a long time ago, but had to be put on hold. This year, on my birthday, I awakened with a new vision to finish what I had started so long ago. Never forget your dreams, goals and ambitions, never let someone unravel your direction, especially in Aviation.

Setting up the cockpit
I had no idea restarting my private pilot training would inspire my high school students, starting my own aviation blog website, to meeting fabulous Lady Aviators from all around the world who are encouraging me. No matter how old, no matter the time, no better than the present to go after your dreams. For me, this has been an amazing journey.

Opening the hangar doors, the moment seeing my Skyhawk waiting to be pulled into the sunlight. It is an amazing feeling especially starting the pre-flight. My CFI and I discuss the goals of the lesson, Practical Test Standards (PTS) to be accomplished. I love practicing the PTS standards, I take it as a challenge since I love competitions. Jumping back into left seat, I was not going for the private standards. My CFI knew my abilities and demands are at Commercial standards. I love flying my Skyhawk, the rental at 2G2.

Preparing for flight
Every flight is a great day. It is hard to define to the non-aviator. I can only say, take your first ride and see if it is for you. This year, my high school girls flew for the first time and cannot wait for their first flight lesson. Later this summer, I will host a fly-in giving young future Lady Aviators a chance to see what Aviation has to offer at Jefferson County Airpark and beyond. Thank you again Girls with Wings and the 99's for believing in me as I continue to inspire my high school and college students realizing "Flying Sets You Free!"

Written by: Natalie Campana-Lucas
Photography by: Cloud 9 Aviation

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Girls With Wings Aviation Inspiration Day 2012 - pt 1

It's the morning after our Second Annual Aviation Inspiration Day in S. St. Paul, MN, and I am still enjoying thinking back on our day. The good: the several hundred people that showed up at our family friendly event despite the bad: the terrible weather. In fact, I think if not for the horrible storms we endured that at one point even caused a power outage, we would have been overwhelmed with attendance. It was due to media coverage such as the live interview done Thursday morning before the event.

Many thanks to Dave Sniadak of Axiom Marketing for bringing so much attention to AID2012. As we receive links to the additional coverage we will bring them to you. So if you need a PR guy, then Dave is your man.

Also, please let me emphasize that this event would not have become the extravaganza it has become without the efforts of Amy Lauria of the Commemorative Air Force - MN Wing. It is because of her efforts through planning, organizing and executing that we have had another successful Aviation Inspiration Day!

Registration for the Girls With Wings presentations immediately spiked. Interestingly enough, I received the following email from Jennifer:

comments =
Yes, please contact me. I would like to know when you have a Boys with Wings program so I can take my boys to it. I know they would love to go. I find it very discouraging that programs like this are out there that discriminate boys against girls. What has our society become? The program should have been Girls and Boys with wings so they would both feel welcome. When I heard this on the news this morning they said "oh, and boys can come too" really? Do you really think they would feel wecome in any way? Why are we putting boys and girls against eachother at such a young age? Fox 9 news also puts on a Girls in Science program which also discriminates boys. Do you think our society would tolerate having a flying program or a science program only for boys? So, please let me know when you are having your Boys with Wings program so our family can attend. My email address is listed above. Thank you.

I haven't received an email such as this for quite a while, so of course I was a bit taken aback because we were trying to emphasize that this was an event for the ENTIRE family. We had many activities scheduled for everyone, the only facet of the event just for girls was the Girls With Wings presentation. The extra push, of course, was to bump up the participation of girls in aviation.

Keith Jones, one of GWW's Board Members, asked to respond to her email. He is father to three great kids who were featured in a blog entry a couple of years ago. Since then the entire family has come onboard as GWW Crewmembers - they even had a booth during Women Fly It Forward and had as their guest of honor Sarah Fraher of Flying Wild Alaska.

I thought Keith's response was so insightful and valuable that I am going to share it with you here:


Thank you for your email and I can truly understand your frustration from the viewpoint that you laid out in your email below.  How you feel was exactly the feeling held when there was not an easy avenue for women to pursue aviation related past times or careers back when Girls With Wings was conceived over 10 years ago.  This is not the first time we have heard this point of view, and we do take it seriously.  In short, we have no intention of Girls With Wings to be sexist only towards girls and women.  However, what we are trying to do is provide more opportunities for women to participate in aviation because of the staggeringly low numbers of women joining the industry in either a commercial or recreational capacity.  For example, only 6% of pilots are women.  3% of pilots for the scheduled airlines are women. That means out of 100 airline pilots, 97 are men and only 3 are women. There are very few other industries you will find that consist of gender statistics like that.  What we found when we started Girls With Wings is that with the rare exception all promotional material, shirts, books, and anything else you can imagine associated with aviation was already boy oriented and girls were subtly excluded by this bias.  Trying to find a girl’s pink airplane t-shirt was virtually impossible 10 years ago.  Now, we have that through Girls With Wings.  Every day was "Boys with Wings" and girls did not have the same choices for their preferences, which many times can be different than a boy's preference.  The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds were, for many years, only male pilots, and the public recruiting face of those military branches.  In fact, Nicole, the first female Thunderbird pilot, is a role model on our site and she by far gets the most email because she has inspired girls to think about following in her footsteps. We started Girls With Wings to help young women have an avenue when they are curious about aviation but may have been told they could not or should not do it because someone in their life may have told them "planes are a boy's thing" or they think it is too hard of a passion for which to reach.  

In addition to our many male supporters, there are two men on our Board of Directors.  In fact, I am one of the Directors and am a father of one such girl that I described above.  I have a son (8), a daughter (7), and another daughter (3).  My son loves everything about aviation and is welcomed nearly anywhere he goes that is aviation oriented (male and female events).  I am a pilot and I have been exposed to flight instructors that refuse to even teach women how to fly or were very derogatory toward women pilots to their male students.  Unfortunately, this is just a fact of life in aviation and we are trying to overcome it.  My oldest daughter once told me "I can't like planes like my older brother, it's only a boy's thing".  This seemed to me to come out of left field, since I never heard her actually told anything of the sort.  What was my response as a pilot and a Dad?  I sought out and started volunteering for Girls With Wings and now both of my daughters, who thought aviation was only a "boy's thing" before now, live and breathe aviation because they know they are just as capable as boys to participate in aviation.  In fact, I am a man who volunteers frequently for Girls With Wings and my young son joins me to support his little sisters' passions in aviation even if his sisters are not there with him.  An 8 year old boy is trying to help girls his age become interested in aviation just as much as he is - without competing with them.  That is what we try to do here at Girls With Wings:  help each other attempt to live to our fullest potential, using aviation as a theme, but all of our fullest potential in general.

If you are looking for general aviation organizations that don't have missions specifically concentrating on changing the statistics for women in aviation, may I recommend AOPA ( and EAA ( that are gender neutral and could have more men for your boys to interact with.  They have many many more events than Girls With Wings each year if you review their websites.  You could also read about and join the Young Eagles program ( which, as you will find, will have at least 94% male pilots for your boys to interact with. This is also the organization that has volunteered to offer the free flights at our Aviation Inspiration Day Lynda discussed on TV. It is important to remember that Girls with Wings promotes aviation in general.  We welcome both genders at our events.  We welcome individuals of both genders because it helps move our mission forward.  All three of the aforementioned organizations, and many more, are also very supportive of Girls With Wings because they also understand the need to interest more younger women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and aviation is a perfect avenue for that education. 

Although it seems you are very frustrated at what you perceive is a competition of boys versus girls and I'm confident this letter will probably not change your mind, I wanted to share where our inspiration started.  If your sons and daughters would like to attend the event, they are more than welcome to come.  In fact, bring your whole family!  As Lynda, the Founder and Executive Director of Girls With Wings, said on the TV interview, the event is meant for the whole family.  During the short TV interview she only had time to talk about the highlights of our organization and the event so hopefully this email gives you a little more background concerning Girls With Wings.  The information I shared with you in this email would have taken too long for the TV spot we were allotted.

If you have any other comments or concerns, please feel free to email me back.
Keith Jones
Director,  Girls With Wings, Inc.
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization

PS - my mentor when I was a student pilot was a female pilot that I met through Girls With Wings and I found her listed in the "role models" section of our website.  She helped me get through some of the tough times faced when I was learning to fly.  And because of that, I believe GWW is capable of helping pilots of any gender depending on how you use the resources Girls With Wings has to offer anyone interested in the organization.

I post these emails because I am emphasizing the point that we are really encouraging everyone to participate in our Aviation Inspiration Day. I am looking forward to bringing you in successive blog entries highlights of the event as the pictures and videos start to roll in. I'm also in the process of building a permanent webpage for AID 2012 and creating June's newsletter - before my memories start to get fuzzy!

Oh, and here's a photo of two of my three helpers that also happen to be my nephews. Clearly I wasn't the only one exhausted by the day's activities. They were real troopers!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Meet Natalie, our third Scholarship Winner!

Yes, it's true, we had only been planning on awarding two scholarships for our Spring Program, but we felt like Natalie's efforts to promote aviation to her students deserved special recognition. Thanks to a donation from the Antelope Chapter of the 99s, we also awarded Natalie $500 for her flight training. Her application essay follows her cover letter.

Dear Girls with Wings Scholarship Committee:

I am writing in response to the 2012 Girls With Wings Scholarship. My CFI recently told me about this fantastic opportunity for future female pilots.

As you’ll see on my enclosed packet, in addition, I am high school multimedia instructor who have created video and photography projects utilizing my favorite airport, 2G2. I even have graduates helping to film and produce segments at the airport.These young ladies never flown before, not even commercial. They cannot wait for the Ohio weather to break and fly again. I love to inspire others!

Flight School cost has tripled. I have been saving. Yet, it is never enough. You always want to make sure your prepared following every guideline for an FAA Check-ride. This scholarship would give me the opportunity to finish my training at Jefferson Aviation Flight School located in Wintersville, Ohio. I have only need practice and I am almost there!

I can only hope that my dream might inspire other students’ towards theirs. Thank you for this opportunity to apply for your scholarship. I believe Lady Aviators need to stick together since we are so far and few.
Happy Flying,

Ever since I was three years old, watching airplanes take off at 2G2. I wanted to fly. At Ohio University, I was fortunate to sit right seat. I truly fell in love with aviation. Yet, I could not afford it. I still flew right seat saving my money. In 2008, I found a flight school and was learning in a Cessna 150. Tragically, the recession hit. My airplane was grounded due to not enough pilots’ flying. Devastated, I walked away with only a check ride left to seeing my dream of holding my Private Pilot Ticket. The nearest airport for a rental was forty-five minutes away, the cost practically tripled. I saw no hope.

2012, I woke up on my birthday with an old idea in my mind. It was time to recapture my life, my dream and that flight. So, I started a website, and talking to my high school students about my dream. Students who never visited the airport were asking to go. I made arrangements for them to fly under the EAA Young Eagles Program. I entered in a contest with women of aviation for Harriet Quimby and involved my high school multimedia students to aid in production along with my favorite airport, 2G2. They had their first flight later once the weather broke. I could not believe that my dream was inspiring my students. My students are rooting for me! It has been an amazing short journey. 

Then, the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week wrote about my ambitions since my classroom is decorating in nothing but aviation parts and posters. You can found the article on their site.

 In our town, the Fort Steuben Bridge was demolished, my school allowed me to take one students to film and photograph this awesome event with my flight instructor. The photo made the local section of our newspaper. My student, she was so excited and her family could not believe an opportunity since her dream is to become a military photographer. 

 This February, I started Ground School at my favorite airport, 2G2. They have Cessna 172 to finish my flying. The cost is doubtfully expensive. Yet, my husband hosted a surprise birthday party where my parents and in-laws as a gift gave me one hour of flight time. My husband said, go capture your dream and fly again. This scholarship would greatly benefit my flight time and instruction with the Cessna 172. I only desire to be the best pilot in the sky. 

Thank you for this opportunity to submit for your scholarship.

Natalie must submit at least one picture and an associated journal entry on May 31st and on June 30th to the Girls With Wings blog to share with others her training, as well as email a final essay with picture(s) by July 31st of the same year, summarizing how the scholarship helped her, what she learned and her intent to continue her work as a role model and volunteer for the Girls With Wings, Inc., organization.

Stay tuned to read about our other scholarship winner AND DON'T FORGET we have a Summer Scholarship Program, too. Applications will be accepted until June 30th. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Meet Gabby, another 2012 GWW Scholarship Winner!

Girls With Wings would like to introduce you to another 2012 Spring Scholarship Winner.

Gabby is the recipient of our Dreams Take Flight Award which helps defray the cost of flight training lessons in pursuit of a private pilot certificate. This scholarship is designed to introduce the world of aviation to someone that always dreamed of a career in aviation but has not yet had the opportunity to make her dream take flight. The intent of this award is to offer encouragement and guidance toward the achievement of her goal, whether it is as a pilot or in another aviation field.

According to the application guidelines, the essay must clearly delineate the applicant’s plan for pursuing a private pilot’s certificate as well as reasons and vision for becoming a role model for the Girls With Wings organization. The essay should also describe the motivation and inspiration for involvement in aviation. Any achievements and participation in other organizations and related events should be discussed in the essay. Financial need and how the scholarship would improve your ability to obtain a private pilot’s certificate should be covered in the essay. Gabby's application essay follows.

In my earliest dreams I have always taken flight and looked to the sky. My father has always been my main inspiration toward making my dreams a reality. He has always loved aviation and as a child my siblings and I would join him in watching television documentaries about flight and aviation. Sci-fi was also big in our house. Star Trek, Star Wars, Battle Star Galactica or any show that had a spaceship, plane or rocket we watched it! As we got older he would take us to the local airshows to see the different planes and helicopters. Dad has always been a hard worker in many technical fields as a mechanic, machinist and later a Quality Engineer. Eventually, he was able to find work at Pratt & Whiney and later at Cessna. He loved working with engine parts, propellers and aircraft. This only fueled his love and mine for aviation. He felt that he could then take advantage of his company program and earn his pilots license. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with a rare chronic cancer and eventually had to leave work without becoming a pilot. However, my father never let my dreams die. He encouraged me to keep pursuing my goal of becoming a pilot and working in aviation or aerospace.

This is when my career path became clearer to me. With my parents encouragement I joined the local Young Eagles program three years ago at Skyline Flight School in Columbus, Georgia. Since then I have been on several flights and have even taken over the controls on many occasions. I still remember my first time going up and how I felt so free and excited. My excitement and joy of flying has only continued to grow as I also became a associated with other organizations that promote aviation for young people such as: AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) and Sporty’s Pilot Shop. These organizations help by providing resources and free simulation training courses, guides and testing. Learning to fly is only one aspect of aviation and aeronautics. My future goals also include earning an Aeronautics Administration Degree from Embry Riddle University which will enable me to qualify for a fulfilling job with a space center, airport or the FAA. Since Embry Riddle has a campus here locally in Columbus, Georgia, I have a great opportunity to become a pilot and earn my degree locally.

Career choice is not the only challenge in fulfilling my dreams. There are substantial cost associated with flight school and college. My family is not a wealthy one by any means. The recent economy has affected many people and we are no exception. This is why I believe scholarship opportunities like Girls With Wings Dreams Take Flight are so important to me and my goals. It can relieve some of the financial burden and give those like myself a chance that they would otherwise not have. I have not sat back and taken this likely. In order to keep myself in a potion to be considered for such valuable awards, I have worked very hard in my high school curriculum and currently maintain a 3.8 GPA. I am also aware of the responsibility and platform that comes along with such a gift if chosen and strive to exemplify good conduct at school and in the community.

I have learned from my parents that nothing can keep you from dreaming or turning your dreams into reality if you are determined to work hard and not give up. If I am honored to be a recipient of the Girls With Wings Dreams Take Flight Scholarship, I will use my platform to inspire other girls and minorities to reach for their goals in aviation or aeronautics no matter the challenges. I will work hard to be an example to others who have dreamed as I have and to show them that if they are courageous and willing to let nothing stand in their way they can succeed. I believe the opportunities will continue to grow for women in aviation and for little girls who dream and look to the sky.

Gabby must submit at least one picture and an associated journal entry on May 31st and on June 30th to the Girls With Wings blog to share with others her training, as well as email a final essay with picture(s) by July 31st of the same year, summarizing how the scholarship helped her, what she learned and her intent to continue her work as a role model and volunteer for the Girls With Wings, Inc., organization.

Stay tuned to read about our other scholarship winner AND DON'T FORGET we have a Summer Scholarship Program, too. Applications will be accepted until June 30th.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Spring Scholarship Winners Announced!

Girls With Wings would like to introduce you to our 2012 Spring Scholarship Winners.

We'll start with the recipient of our Private Pilot Award which helps defray the cost of flight training lessons in pursuit of a private pilot certificate. This scholarship is targeting those individuals who have soloed but have not completed the Private Pilot Course. The Private Pilot Scholarship is an award in the amount of $1000.00.

According to the application guidelines, the essay must clearly delineate the applicant’s plan for pursuing a private pilot’s certificate as well as reasons and vision for becoming a role model for the Girls With Wings organization. The essay should also describe the motivation and inspiration for involvement in aviation. Any achievements and participation in other organizations and related events should be discussed in the essay. Financial need and how the scholarship would improve your ability to obtain a private pilot’s certificate should be covered in the essay. Alaina's application essay follows.

On an application form, I am known as a 17-year-old junior from the quiet suburbs of Kings Mills, Ohio. These words are true to a tee, but then again, do not describe me at all. To people, I am known as a wild adventurer, always ready to try atypical activities and explore unusual hobbies. Although young, I have developed two life philosophies: live life to the fullest, and make a difference in the world. I never pass up unique opportunities (which have led to some eyebrow-raising stories for sure!), so when offered an opportunity to take a ride in a tiny Aeronca Champion, I jumped at the chance—and I’ve been hooked ever since. My first official lesson was on October 17th, 2010, and the rest is history.

My love for flying actually goes back further than my first lesson in October. My father had always been interested in aviation, and for many years he flew remote control models he would build himself. Our family vacations often included stops to air shows, conventions, and many trips to the Wright Brother’s memorial. I even took my first plane ride before I was big enough to sit in a seat by myself; I was strapped in on my mother’s lap! Eventually, my dad set down the remote control box to became a pilot—a real one. Seeing him circle around in a slow-moving taildragger made me feel like I belonged up there too. If he could do it, so could I!

Flying must have been in my future, because as luck would have it, I ran into the owner of Red Stewart Airfield during an air show, and she offered me a desk job in the office of the flight school. I couldn’t have asked for a better arrangement: I work at the airport (learning the faces and jargon of the pilots) in exchange for flight time. Beginning training did not come without sacrifice, however. I am heavily involved with the school and athletics, and I mean heavily when I say it. I participate in five school clubs, four sports, National Honors Society, an independent ornithology course, the Kings High School math team, and now I wanted to fit flying on top of it. In order to be able to train efficiently and balance my new job, I took a break from running cross country and track and field my sophomore year. It was a hard decision because I knew I would be giving up another shot at going to state for cross country (I had made it my freshman year), but running everyday is very time consuming, and I needed to prioritize my time. Flying comes first.

It was well worth it though, because I can now say I am a true grassroots aviator. I began my lessons in the very same Aeronca Champ I took the ride in and learned how to fly “by the seat of my pants.” Those sixty year old taildraggers gave me the feeling that I could really become a skilled pilot. I could fly just by looking at the tips of the wings, land in a crosswind by only touching down one wheel at a time, and navigate with only a sectional (there were no practical GPS’s in those days).

I continued my training all throughout the winter and into the summer. My goal was to earn my license on my seventeenth birthday, and no weather was going to stop me (when the runway was covered in snow, I rented an airplane on skis- what a blast!). However, time is one thing I cannot really work around. In today’s society, time means money, and time is one thing I am short on. School was approaching yet again, and I was faced with the decision to either move on to the larger planes and triple my lesson cost or give up the dream before I worked myself deeper into the hole. Obviously the latter was not an option, but I could not afford flying the planes with all the fancy instruments and lights needed to meet the private requirements. Instead, I settled for a third option; I took all of my training and earned a sport license—yes, on my seventeenth birthday. I couldn’t quite afford renting the more sophisticated planes, but I did not throw away the experience I had gained over the past year. I could still fly the planes the true aviators flew during World War II, and now I could at least share my gift with others as well. My second non-family passenger was a Marine that had only flown in a plane once in his life—he left for training a month ago to become a fighter pilot.

Yes, I realize this is an extreme example and I probably do not deserve most of the credit, but it goes to show what just a small dose of aviation can ignite. It’s something I feel can be and should be spread to more members of the community, especially women. Working at Red Stewart Airfield, I see scores of pilots every day. The most concerning part is that I can only name six current female student pilots… six! Out of countless men! Local pilots recognize me solely on the broadcasts I call out; it’s not that hard to distinguish one female from all of the masculine voices flitting over the radio. Hearing another woman over the frequencies creates an instant camaraderie, because we know we are unique and have a special opportunity to converse with a pilot of the same gender. It’s quite an experience, and one that we should encounter more often!

Imagine the results if we brought that aviation spark to other women. Even if the message reaches just a few, the ratio of female to male pilots would dramatically increase. In the United States, only five percent of pilots are female. Especially in cases like ours with such a low percentage of women in the profession, just a small number of people would make all the difference in the world.

Making all the difference in the world—my ultimate goal has been laid out right before me, an opportunity that I will not pass up. Girls With Wings exists solely to share the love for aviation with the female community, creating an impact that lasts a lifetime. Whether chosen to carry on my flight training with a scholarship or without, I fully intend to continue posting in the blog, trying to encourage girls to at least look in to aviation. I really hope others will read the inspiring stories of the other female pilots and feel the same inklings that drive us to the skies. I also would like to eventually become involved in the Young Eagles program to introduce the gift of flight to our pilots of the future.

Aviation is a true life changer; it instills confidence and maturity in those who decide to pursue it, and gives people a skill to really be proud of. As an eighth grader, I was not looking forward to high school. I came from a small, close-knit parochial school; its entire student body, kindergarten through eighth grade, fit in one building, and one knew everyone else’s name, face, hobbies, friends, and family. I dreaded becoming “the new girl” at a public high school (as many girls my age would). As a freshman, I wrote a short story about flying that was published in the school’s literary magazine. My sophomore English class heard my persuasive speech about aviation radio communications. As a junior, I began my year by presenting a shadowbox of my solo t-shirt tail, my student pilot certificate, pictures, and maps. Flying has allowed me to break out of my shell, and as many already know, I am eager to share this amazing gift with peers of all ages. I am no longer known as “the new girl.” I have gained confidence in myself and my abilities, and now am involved in more activities this year than I thought were possible to squeeze into an entire high school career.

As for my future in aviation, after the school year ends I am continuing my training towards my private pilot certificate. Instead of catching up on sleep or homework, I have been up at the airport working twelve hour weekends the entire winter so that I can fly without any more interruptions; my goal is to earn my private certificate by the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year so that I do not truncate lessons due to classes again! If all goes well, as a private pilot I will be able to fly a WWII Stearman biplane.

Why such a specific plane? Each year at Red Stewart Airfield during their Labor Day air show, two females in dazzling uniforms walk between the wings of the blue and yellow biplane. It sounds crazy, I know—but I hope to join their ranks one day. Wing walking. It was (and still is) my ultimate push factor to earn a private certificate; the Stearman is not a light sport aircraft, so the hobby (if you could call it that) requires at least a private rating or higher to pursue.

However, you can only dangle off of a wing for so long. Whether I follow my brother’s footsteps into West Point to fly for the Army or blaze my own trail at the Air Force Academy, I plan on joining the military to continue my career in flying after high school. I have been accepted into a summer leadership seminar at both academies, so I will receive a little taste of each branch’s aviation programs (and what I am getting myself into!). A particular field that strongly pulls me is becoming a trainer pilot—I have always wanted to be a teacher, so what better way to get the best of both worlds than to teach others how to fly?

Aviation has allowed me to bloom into the woman I am today. I hope by sharing it with others, I can spread a little piece of the confidence flying gave to me—it’s out there ladies, we may just need a nudge to reach for it. I sincerely wish to become a catalyst for the women of all generations, older and younger, to experience the true gift of flight. You never know. Someday, we just might change the world.

And that is what I live for.

Alaina must submit at least one picture and an associated journal entry on May 31st and on June 30th to the Girls With Wings blog to share with others her training, as well as email a final essay with picture(s) by July 31st of the same year, summarizing how the scholarship helped her, what she learned and her intent to continue her work as a role model and volunteer for the Girls With Wings, Inc., organization. 

Stay tuned to read about our other scholarship winners AND DON'T FORGET we have a Summer Scholarship Program, too. Applications will be accepted until June 30th.