Every year during the week of International Women’s Day on March 8, aviation celebrates the issuance of the first flying license to a female pilot, and reaches out to today’s women to join the aviation family.
Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week is a global outreach initiative that has already attracted 96,000 participants in its six-year history. The week’s activities are designed to raise awareness of aviation opportunities available to girls of all ages while celebrating the accomplishments of past and present women of aviation.
With events scheduled around the world to mark the occasion, AOPA joined in participating in some special observances, such as a global effort to raise awareness by folding enough pink paper airplanes to claim a world record. AOPA also was represented by staff members at the concurrent Women in Aviation International conference held in Nashville, Tennessee.
Yasmina Platt, AOPA Central/Southwest regional manager, also pitched in by participating in the “Fly WOAW” event at the South Texas International Airport in Edinburg, where she gave airplane rides to 61 passengers of all ages during two days of flying.
“More than 750 girls were flown throughout the week,” Platt said, noting that those who flew ranged in age from six months to 64 years, and enjoyed their rides in a mixture of aircraft ranging from a Eurocopter 145 helicopter to single-engine Cessna airplanes and the Grumman Tiger that Platt piloted.
If the passengers treasured their flight experiences, the pilots will no doubt prize the notes of thanks they received.
“It was a life changing experience. I was amazed you let me fly the plane,” a young passenger named Emily wrote to Platt.
“Such an incredible experience. Yasmina is awesome—answered my girls’ questions and made one of them her co-pilot. May God bless this organization for blessing young ladies of the valley,” wrote another participant, Michele.
Many members of the aviation community teamed up to make Edinburg’s celebration happen.
“Helicopter pilot Dianna Stanger; ground crew manager Steve Plunkett and event organizer Jasmine Gordon brought the challenge back to Texas, collaborating with Airport Manager Debora Melvin to host the week-long Fly WOAW event,” wrote Gordon. “Six years, five airports and two years in the making this event was deemed for success.”
An official proclamation from the city of Edinburg opened the event. Flights had been fully booked two weeks in advance.
“I love this and I want to come here every day of my life,” wrote a local Girl Scout after having the opportunity to fly with Stanger, a two-time Air Race Classic champion and president of the Whirly Girls, the International Women’s Helicopter Pilots organization.
“The support the event has received from the local schools, universities, civic leaders, and pilots was overwhelming. There is nothing more satisfying than sharing the joy of flying above the valley and making kids believe that they too can do it,” Stanger said. “Edinburg is a very large community that has welcomed the opportunity for local residents to experience their first flights at their local airport.”
“WOAW 2016 may be over but the memory and impact of the girls’ first flight will last a lifetime,” Gordon wrote in an event report.
Another event held in AOPA’s Central/Southwest region during Women of Aviation Worldwide Week took place at Louisiana Regional Airport in Gonzales, Louisiana, where the airport manager, Janet Gonzales, hosted a paper airplane challenge and took several girls up for airplane rides, as did volunteers from The Ninety-Nines and other pilots dedicated to promoting aviation.
“I heard a lot of discussion from many of the participants about taking flying lessons. Let’s hope they make that desire a reality,” said an account of the day’s activities—which got off the ground despite a wait for murky weather to clear—on the airport’s Facebook page.
It was on March 8, 1910, when Raymonde de La Roche of France was the first woman in the world to be issued a pilot certificate. Harriet Quimby became the first woman to earn a pilot certificate in the United States.
International Women’s Day has been held since the early 1900s, according to this chronology of the celebration.