ALPA Pilots Spark an Interest in Airline Careers at Girls In Aviation Day Events

By Lydia Jakub, Strategic Planning & Resources Specialist
Girls in Aviation Day at DCA

ALPA is a longtime advocate for securing the pilot pipeline with qualified professionals and has built a robust educational outreach program to bring its members’ passion for flying to students of all ages to spark their interest in an airline piloting career.

On September 25, Women in Aviation International (WAI) chapters around the world marked the seventh annual Girls in Aviation Day with both in-person and virtual events for girls ages 8–17 to learn about a myriad of professions available in the aviation and aerospace industries.

A proud partner of this initiative, ALPA supported approximately 25 events with pilot volunteers and/or branded materials designed to inspire the next generation of aviators and equip them with information and resources to chart their path to the flight deck.

“Being an airline pilot is the best career out there, but it isn’t visible to young people unless they fly or know someone who does,” said F/O Justin Dahan (FedEx Express), the Association’s Education Committee chair. “Events like Girls in Aviation Day provide us with a great opportunity to connect with girls who are at an age where they’re considering their career options—furthering our efforts to build a qualified, diverse, and inclusive workforce.”

Each in-person Girls in Aviation Day event was unique and featured a variety of stations where girls could explore aviation and aerospace careers, including listening to guest speakers from multiple fields, taking part in sim instruction and hands-on activities, viewing static aircraft displays, and more. Due to COVID-19, many locations limited attendance and followed local health and safety protocols. Events held virtually introduced girls to WAI’s innovative mobile app with interactive activities, virtual museum tours, and other aviation-related resources.

Tying all the events together was a sense of wonder exhibited by the girls, and ALPA’s pilot volunteers were excited to help open a world of possibilities to all participants. They shared their career experiences and engaged with girls on a wide range of issues, including what it takes to become an airline pilot, available pathways, scholarship opportunities, and ALPA’s critical role in ensuring aviation safety.

“Young girls often tell me they’ve never seen a female pilot,” noted F/O Kaori Paris (United), a member of ALPA’s Membership Committee who participated in a Washington, D.C.-metro area event. “As trained pilot professionals, we have the unique ability to mentor and inspire future aviators by being present at these events. It makes a tremendous impact on them to see us in uniform, talk to us about what we do, and learn about the various paths they can take to get to the flight deck, too.”

In addition to providing event support, ALPA reached out through an ad in Aviation for Girls, a print and digital magazine viewed by more than 20,000 readers, and commemorated Girls in Aviation Day on its social media channels, generating hundreds of “likes” and encouraging readers to visit clearedtodream.org, its one-stop resource for aspiring aviators.

“It’s a very different world today than when I was a little girl,” said Capt. Amy Jayo (United), her pilot group’s Local Council 34 secretary-treasurer who volunteered at an event in Mesa, Ariz. “I loved airplanes, the bigger the better! I, like a lot of girls, didn’t have any role models and didn’t have anyone in my family who flew. I just stumbled toward where I knew I wanted to be—in the pointy end of those awesome airplanes. When I was a senior in high school, I learned about an aviation university and applied. I remember telling my guidance counselor this was where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. He told me that girls aren’t pilots. Needless to say, I went anyway. Reading a book written by one of the first female airline pilots inspired me to keep going and to become a pilot. There was the proof—I could do it!”

Mentoring also plays a critical role in building a better trained and engaged workforce. Currently, ALPA has professional development and/or mentoring programs at 13 universities. Education Committee volunteers also visit approximately a dozen more universities throughout the academic year. This outreach is designed to help bridge the gap between the classroom and the flight deck through monthly or semesterly meetings in which Education Committee volunteers talk with students and answer their questions about a “typical” day flying, training, crew resource management, and other issues specific to the profession. The committee also plans field trips to give students a behind-the-scenes look at airline operations, where possible.

“Being an airline pilot wasn’t on my radar until I was in high school,” said Tess Osborne, a collegiate aviator and co-president of ALPA’s Aviation Collegiate Education Club at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. “I went on a college tour with my brother, who is two years older, and saw girls preflighting on the ramp. Then I went home, decided to go on a discovery flight, and have been flying nonstop ever since.”

The next international Girls in Aviation Day is planned for Sept. 24, 2022. For more information or to get involved in ALPA’s educational outreach program, contact Education@alpa.org.

This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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