Women’s flight academy to take off in Texas

August 17, 2012

For the second year in a row, a Texas designated pilot examiner and her band of volunteers will host a weeklong academy aimed at helping women to advance in their flight training.

Girls in Flight Training (GIFT) will take place Nov. 3 through 9 at Wilbarger County Airport in Vernon, Texas.

As was the case when Mary Latimer created the academy in 2011, ground and flight instruction will be provided free of charge. Participants may bring their aircraft or use a Cessna 150 for $50 per hour dry. Free housing is available at the airport on a first-come, first-served basis. Some food will be provided by volunteers, and donations will be accepted. See the website for additional information on participating as a student or volunteer.

The program is meant to be flexible to accommodate students at different levels of instruction, Latimer said. “We will adjust the teaching to meet the needs and goals of those who enroll in the academy,” she explained on the group’s website. “We will assist each student in understanding basics of flight, the joy, safety, dispel myths and fears, passing the written tests, and/or prepare for an oral and practical test. We will also assist in the understanding of weather, weight and balance, aerodynamics, regulations, airspace, GPS, et cetera. If it’s applicable to flying, ask and we’ll cover the whys, history, and how to.”

A broader goal is to identify and address issues that may be causing women to abandon flight training, and to assist them in pushing through obstacles so that they can earn their certificates. The group will spend some time attempting to identify and understand the differences in the way women learn, Latimer said. “We hope each student will bond with others to develop friendships that will enable them to reach out to one another when in need of someone who understands their experiences,” she said.

The issue of why so few women become pilots intrigues Latimer, who recalls being the only female in a class of airframe and powerplant students. A retired air traffic controller, she has been a flight instructor since 1974. Latimer’s husband, Lawrence, and daughter, Tamara Griffith, are flight instructors and mechanics.

The 2011 GIFT attracted 18 women and resulted in two successful private pilot checkrides, two solos, and four successful knowledge tests. Latimer has set no targets for 2012 other than that she hopes her granddaughter, Amanda Griffith—a third-generation female pilot—will have passed her CFI checkride in time to assist with flight instruction.