November 15, 2012
By Jill W. Tallman
March 4 through 10, 2013, are the dates of the upcoming Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, and organizers say the 2013 event will focus on opportunities for women in the aerospace industry. The theme ties in with the fiftieth anniversary of the first space flight by a woman, conducted by Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova on June 16, 1963.
Free flights for women and girls, static displays at airports, and special guests are planned at numerous locations in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
“No country harbors as many female astronauts as the United States does,” the nonprofit Institute for Women of Aviation Worldwide said on its website. “The goal is to welcome a female astronaut at each major U.S. event because … most astronauts are first, pilots. What could be a more exciting inspiration for a young woman to earn a pilot license?”
Victoria Neuville, team leader for U.S. events, said her goal is to have at least one event—called Fly It Forward—in each of the 50 states.
Neuville organized Fly It Forward events at Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Md.—AOPA’s home airport—in 2011 and 2012. Frederick Municipal earned the title of Most Female-Friendly Airport in 2011, when 185 girls and women took rides in general aviation aircraft.
She’ll also helm the 2013 Fly It Forward at Frederick Municipal, and said it will be a weeklong event rather than one day.
Fourteen states thus far have scheduled Fly It Forward events for 2013. Once again, there will be worldwide competitions for airports that introduce the greatest number of women and girls to aviation. The flight school that introduces the greatest number of women during that week will be named “most female-pilot-friendly training center worldwide,” and a prize also be awarded to the “most supportive male pilot worldwide”—the one who takes the greatest number of girls and women flying during that week.
Neuville urged interested pilots or aviation groups that would like to sponsor an event to register at the website.
If each event introduces just 100 girls and women to aviation, and just 2 percent of those women are motivated to become private pilots, Neuville explained, that could equate to a 10-percent increase in the annual number of new women private pilots.
New to the Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is the You Are An Inventor contest, open to girls aged 13 to 19. The contest invites participants to design a new padding system or new type of adjustable space suit that improves freedom of movement for tomorrow’s space explorers. The top prize will be a one-hour conversation with a group of astronauts from several countries via Web conferencing. Entries may be submitted beginning Jan. 7, 2013; the deadline is Feb. 8, 2013. See additional information and eligibility requirements on the website.
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.
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