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Discover Aviation helps young girls take flight

The future of general aviation lies in its future leaders, and in an effort to help boost the pilot population, AOPA Western Regional Representative Stacy Howard is introducing Girl Scouts to the world of flight through Discover Aviation Camp.

“We explore both the history and the future of pilots, aircraft, and flight safety with an emphasis on fun and the limitless opportunities available for women in aviation,” said Howard, who serves as the coordinator for the Arizona Girl Scout Council’s Discover Aviation Camp.

The six-day resident camp for girls 13 years and older provides a broad overview of aviation including ground school sessions on aerodynamics and flight planning, aircraft construction techniques, model building, aircraft engineering, accident investigation, and air traffic control.

Pulling off the camp each year is a community effort, according to Howard. EAA Chapter 658, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott, Ariz., campus, and volunteers from the Phoenix Chapter of The Ninety-Nines joined Howard last week in hosting the thirteenth annual aviation summer camp. “We wouldn’t succeed if it weren’t for help from the airport, the aviation businesses in Prescott, and, of course, the support of the Girl Scout Council. They greatly subsidize the cost of the camp and provide scholarships for some of the campers.”

The highlight comes at the end of the week when the girls receive an introductory flight in a Cessna 172 with an Embry Riddle flight instructor.

“At the beginning of camp, some of the girls worry about their ability to fly the airplane, or whether or not the airplane is really safe. But by the end of the week, they are ready for takeoff, and no one comes back disappointed at the end of her flight,” Howard said. “In fact, every summer we have one or more girls who come back for a second year.”

Some of the girls have gone on to pursue their pilot certificate. Hillary, a Discover Aviation Camp veteran, was featured in the Mesa Republic when she achieved her Gold Award, the highest award offered by the Girl Scouts, in March.

“I stayed in Girl Scouts because I had such a good troop,” she said.  “…It’s not just arts and crafts like some people think. I also learned to fly and am working toward my pilot’s license because of the Girl Scouts.”

Angela, another camp graduate, wrote last summer to say that she was enrolled in Arizona State University at the Polytechnic campus to pursue her aviation degree.

“This program was so inspirational,” she wrote, “I just wanted to thank you guys so much for inspiring me to do great things for the rest of my life.”

Howard noted that another camper, who attended three camps in back-to-back years, is enrolled in the aviation program at Purdue University for the upcoming fall start.

“We’re building the future of aviation,” Howard said, “one pilot at a time.”

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