Celebrating Girls in Aviation Day

By Adrienne Gemignani, Associate Strategic Planning & Resources Specialist
Two best friends enjoy the Women in Aviation International’s Capital Region Chapter Girls in Aviation Day festivities.

Girls all over the globe, along with their families, friends, and Girl Scout troop leaders, gathered at airports, schools, and other venues to meet with aviation professionals for the ninth annual Girls in Aviation Day (GIAD). The official 2023 GIAD was held on September 23; however, informational sessions were held all month long. A record 30,000 participants attended events sponsored by local Women in Aviation International (WAI) chapters around the world, helping to expose girls to various sectors of the aviation industry.

“ALPA is a proud supporter of Girls in Aviation Day,” said F/O Justin Dahan (FedEx Express), the Association’s Education Committee chair. “These events provide a great opportunity to spark interest in the piloting profession as well as foster a love of flying by having ALPA pilots share their passion and experiences.”

GIAD events provide girls between the ages of eight and 18 with opportunities to participate in hands-on activities and, most importantly, have face-to-face interaction with experienced professionals ranging from pilots, air traffic controllers, and flight attendants to astronauts and engineers.

In Winchester, Va., WAI’s Capital Region Chapter drew a few hundred girls and other local aviation enthusiasts to the regional airport to tour a static airplane display and participate in aviation-themed arts and crafts projects. Capt. Dianna Klein (United) brought a virtual-reality headset showing the inside of a Boeing flight deck. She sat with each of the girls, guiding them through the experience and explaining the functions of each switch, lever, and knob and the importance of performing preflight and postflight checklists.

F/O Leah Hetzel (Delta) coordinated the WAI’s Cleveland, Ohio, Chapter event at the International Women’s Air & Space Museum, where more than 50 girls and their families enjoyed a NASA virtual reality experience; an “Air Traffic Controller for a Day” presentation; a flight simulator; and static displays of a corporate jet, a Coast Guard helicopter, a life flight helicopter, and light aircraft. There were also dream board-making stations and crafts, bingo run by the local FAA branch, and colleges and flight schools on hand to speak with the girls. Volunteers were composed of local aviation professionals as well as students from Kent State University.

F/O Leah Hetzel (Delta) with her daughter, Tessa, a potential future pilot.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, Capt. Alison Britton (Delta), ALPA’s Family Awareness Working Group chair, and other current and retired Delta pilots shared an ALPA booth alongside the International Society of Women Airline Pilots in conjunction with the local WAI chapter.

Current female aviators stressed the importance of seeing other female pilots and having a mentor in young girls’ lives. Some had moms, dads, or other family members who worked in aviation, and some had flight instructors or other folks who stepped up and took on the role of providing support and guidance to help them work toward their goals.

“I think being visible is the best way to support young women looking to pursue a career in aviation,” remarked F/O Jade Lubinski (United). “There are so many people who still have never seen a female pilot or don’t know anything about the industry. Being approachable and providing an opportunity for them to ask questions about what we do can be the spark that makes a young girl consider this career.”

Help Inspire the Next Generation

ALPA’s Education Committee is dedicated to promoting the pilot profession, mentoring aspiring aviators, and preparing the next generation of pilots to join the union. One initiative, Project Takeoff, takes ALPA’s outreach public to inspire and equip budding aviators. Successful events were held over the summer in Orlando, Fla., and Denver, Colo., and another one is planned in Chicago, Ill., this December. If you’d like to get involved, contact the Education Committee.

This article was originally published in the December 2023 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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