July 26, 2013
Lynda Meeks struggled to find her nieces clothes with airplane pictures in pink, instead of the usual boy colors.
“There was never anything that appealed to girls, ” she says. “So I decided to start embroidering airplane outfits for girls, and selling those to family, friends and strangers.”
As she sold her clothes, women began telling her stories about how they wanted to be a pilot when they were small, but someone told them that girls weren’t pilots.
That’s all it took for Meeks to take action. She started speaking at career days, to Girl Scout troops and in schools, with a message that girls can be pilots and good ones at that. Her interactive presentation was so successful that it morphed into Girls With Wings, which officially began in 2005.
Girls With Wings not only tells girls that they can become pilots, but it also encourages them to achieve their full potential while offering role models and scholarships to help fund their flight training.
Meeks herself is a pilot, although her route to the career is a bit unusual. She started college without any clear direction and one day, received a postcard in the mail that showed people repelling. “It looked like fun, so I went,” she says. And when she did, she found herself in the Army ROTC and with a college scholarship.
When she graduated, she had to pick what branch to get into. “That’s when someone told me that aviation was the most difficult to get into and I love a challenge,” she says
Six months later, she was a second lieutenant at the controls of UH-1 “Huey” helicopters. She was stationed in Germany for more than three years, during which she trained for fixed wing aircraft that she flew throughout Europe and Southwest Asia.
After leaving the active Army in 1999, she flew for regional and fractional airlines and became a flight instructor. She now works as an Airbus simulator instructor in Hong Kong, and keeps active with Girls With Wings, knowing that more work has to be done since only about 6 percent of the pilots in the United States are women.
“Girls need flight plans, not fairy tales,” she says. “Girls need to dream about what they want to be, instead of just dreaming of being a princess and living happily ever after. Although I came into aviation through the back door, it is something I absolutely adore and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love going to work — the inside of a cockpit may be a small office, but it has a great view.”
Pilot Training and Certification
AOPA worked with the flight training industry and FAA to quickly resolve a problem that suddenly put many rating applications on hold.
The Upwind Summer Scholarship Program, which gives high school students a chance to earn their private pilot certificate in the summer between their junior and senior year, is accepting applications for its 2015 scholarship.
If only one person had been helped, it all would have been worthwhile. But much more than that has been accomplished over the 25-year life of the National Gay Pilots Association, said its executive director.
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