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Festival celebrates Latinas in Aviation

On a drizzly Saturday in October, Latinas who work in the aviation industry—along with their loved ones, supporters, and those who want to uplift diversity in the industry—gathered to celebrate pioneering women who have shared their stories with the world.

'Latinas in Aviation' author and certificated sport pilot Jacqueline Ruiz speaks to attendees at the 2022 Latinas in Aviation Global Festival hosted at College Park Airport in Maryland. Photo courtesy of the Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George's County.

The second annual Latinas in Aviation Global Festival was forced inside due to poor weather, but attendees were still in good spirits with opportunities to speak directly to aviation industry professionals and listen to their unique experiences as Latinas in aviation.

The event coincided with the launch of Latinas in Aviation, Maryland edition. The second volume of the book focuses on Latina voices from Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Luz Beattie, AOPA’s director of flight operations, was one contributing author alongside air traffic controllers, pilots, engineers, mechanics, and more who told “stories of passion, power, and breaking into the aviation industry.”

Both the original Latinas in Aviation and Latinas in Aviation, Maryland edition are available for purchase on Amazon, with 100 percent of the original book proceeds going toward the #PILOTINA Scholarship, which has awards for young Latinas who are interested in pursuing a career in the aviation or aerospace industries.

Contributors from both Latinas in Aviation books were in attendance on October 1, along with the author who compiled the books, Jacqueline Ruiz.

Ruiz is a certificated sport pilot, author of 29 books, and founder of Fig Factor Media. She’s very passionate about expanding opportunities for Latinas in the aviation industry, a subgroup that represents only 1 percent of the 7 percent of women in the aviation and aerospace industry.

“My mission, my purpose in life is to elevate women,” Ruiz said, before introducing the contributing authors of the two books, mentioning that this event was to “create a space in time, a micro moment in our history, to take a pause and celebrate our stories.”

The 2022 Latinas in Aviation Global Festival was held at College Park Airport in Maryland on October 1. Photo by Lillian Geil.

The event was a combination of book signing opportunities, contributor author panel discussions, museum exploration, and mentorship circles. There were also sponsors and vendors in attendance, including the AOPA You Can Fly team, Women in Aviation International, and The Ninety-Nines.

Hosted in the beautiful College Park Aviation Museum at College Park Airport in Maryland, the oldest continually operating airport in the United States, visitors were able to view historic aircraft and explore exhibits. The most recent exhibit was the corner dedicated to memorabilia and stories from Latinas in Aviation.

Kevin Cabrera, executive director of College Park Aviation Museum, expressed his passion for continuing to tell stories at the museum of underrepresented communities in the aviation and aerospace industry. “The museum is going to continue to do our inclusive interpretation, we're going to be highlighting stories of women, of our Black aviators, our Latinas, and we're going to do more community programs,” said Cabrera. He also emphasized that connecting youth to opportunities is an important project of the museum.

Whether by scholarship or mentorship, these pioneers of the industry are eager to bring more young women into aviation and hope to continue building a more diverse and inclusive space.

“For me growing up, I did not see anyone that looked like me in any kind of career that I would've been interested in,” said Karen Perez, an aerospace engineer and a contributing author of the Maryland edition of Latinas in Aviation, “So, I am very honored to have been part of this project so that hopefully somebody that looks like me, or has hair like me, can say ‘If she can do it, I can do it too.’”

Lillian Geil

Digital Media Assistant Editor
Digital Media Assistant Editor Lillian Geil is a student pilot and a graduate of Columbia University who joined AOPA in 2021.
Topics: Fly-in, People

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