AOPA was a proud participant in the International Women in Aviation Conference, which, for its twenty-eighth year, brought an estimated 4,500 participants from 19 countries together in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, March 2 through 4 to share their passion for aviation and reach out to the next generation of female aviation professionals.
AOPA is a strong supporter of Women in Aviation International, and was actively engaged in many conference activities, highlighted by a keynote address by AOPA President Mark Baker; sponsoring a New Member Social; awarding a $3,000 Flight Training scholarship to a young woman pilot; hosting a You Can Fly Back to Your Roots seminar, and maintaining an AOPA booth in the exhibit hall.
WAI’s network reached 110 global chapters with groups from Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ghana taking part, the organization announced.
Baker addressed the conference’s March 3 general session, providing an overview of AOPA’s 77 years as an aviation advocacy organization. He brought participants up to date on several of the issues currently in sharp focus across the aviation landscape including the third class medical reform program known as BasicMed that is gearing up to take effect in May.
He discussed works in progress including how AOPA is trying to ease the financial burden of temporary flight restrictions that have shut down Palm Beach County Park Airport (Lantana Airport) for security reasons during several weekend visits to Palm Beach, Florida, by President Donald Trump, negatively impacting several other area airports as well.
He described how AOPA created the You Can Fly program to reverse the decline in the pilot population by improving the experience for the aviators of today and tomorrow, reducing regulatory hurdles and costs; increasing access; inviting more people into general aviation; and inspiring pilots to stay active and get more engaged.
The initiative includes AOPA’s Rusty Pilots Initiative, which has held 326 seminars so far, helping more than 2,700 pilots get back in the air, and the Flying Club Initiative, which already has helped launch 36 new flying clubs across the country.
On the Flight Training front of You Can Fly, in 2016 AOPA presented awards to 70 schools and 60 instructors for their exceptional success and excellence as a result of information collected in AOPA’s Flight Training Poll, he said.
Through You Can Fly’s High School Initiative, AOPA is creating the tools to launch; support; and grow aviation science, technology, engineering, and math programs by building aviation STEM year curriculum with Purdue University, and with a symposium that attracted 200 educators in 2016.
In 2016, AOPA awarded 20 $5,000 High School Flight Training scholarships, and has begun accepting applications for 2017 scholarships. At the WAI conference, AOPA’s Women in Aviation chapter presented a $3,000 scholarship to Sarah Horan, a young woman from Texas who is preparing for college where she is eager to continue her flight training and explore aviation career opportunities.
Baker noted the overwhelming success of 16 AOPA Fly-ins held around the country and attended by 44,000 people, 74 percent of whom had never been to an AOPA event before. He described the expanded two-day format of the four fly-ins scheduled for 2017.
Katie Pribyl, AOPA senior vice president of aviation strategy and programs and the leader of the You Can Fly program, and Jamie Beckett, AOPA’s You Can Fly ambassador in Florida, hosted a Back to your Roots seminar aimed at encouraging professional aviators to return to their recreational aviation pursuits in the non-pressurized flight levels once again.
The theme of aviation as fun also was a focus of WAI's successful youth outreach program known as Girls in Aviation Day, through which more than 200 young people met with aviation role models and were addressed at a luncheon by aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff.
“This important outreach will continue with WAI's International Girls in Aviation Day on September 23, 2017, where WAI’s network of local chapters will plan and execute their own unique events for girls 8 to 17 years old,” WAI said in a news release at the conference’s conclusion.
“Our members love seeing the girls at the conference, recognizing that we are sowing seed for future pilots and technicians,” said WAI President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. "For many of the girls, Girls in Aviation Day is their first exposure to the possibility of aviation as a career. We have thousands of role models for them who are glad to spend time and answer questions.”
Other conference activities included a panel discussion of aviation’s safety culture, and a roundtable discussion giving the general public an opportunity to learn about flight training.
The twenty-ninth International Women in Aviation Conference will be held March 22-24, 2018, at Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Nevada, WAI said.