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Women of Aviation Worldwide

One week last March was internationally designated as “Women of Aviation Worldwide Week”. One of the more active women’s aviation organizations – Women in Aviation International hosted their annual convention  last March as well. If you are a woman who has been dreaming of becoming a civilian or military pilot, astronaut, instructor, aircraft mechanic, air traffic controller, airport manager or any other active, successful person in aviation, now might be a good time to launch your journey towards your goals. Women have been successfully proving themselves in all areas of aviation, and there are some great opportunities out there waiting for you.

I have trained hundreds of students in the past 40 years and some of my best students were women who’s ages ranged from 13 to 65. Some of my female students became pilots for major airlines.  One woman came to me to just take a couple of lessons to get over an extreme fear of flying. Previously, she had to use a stiff drink to enable her to go on trips in the family airplane with her husband. After a few flight lessons, she became curious to learn more and started having the time of her life pursuing her Private Pilot certificate. She became an excellent pilot and is now critiquing her husband’s flying skills.

Another woman who worked at our school as a flight dispatcher, got her private pilot, instrument rating and multiengine rating before going through training with the FAA and then becoming one of the best air traffic controllers we have ever had at PDK airport. A few years ago a French woman who held a Private Pilot certificate and was a paraplegic, visited Atlanta for a month and took some of the flight training towards her Instrument rating with me. We used the airplane I had modified for wheelchair students. She then returned to France and completed her commercial pilot training. She now has a job flying herself over the forests in France to spot fires for their forestry ministry. She was an excellent and inspiring student to work with.

I also had a woman in the wheelchair course come to me to take her FAA Private Pilot checkride when I was an FAA-Designated Pilot Examiner. She had only one leg, the other was gone all the way to her hip. She wore a non-flexible prosthetic leg for appearance. On a hot July afternoon when we went to do the flight test, she asked if I minded her removing the leg for comfort. After I said it would be fine, she popped it off, tossed it in the back seat and then proceeded to do an outstanding job on her test.

Another woman I flew with, was a retired elementary school teacher in her late 50s, who was married to a Delta Airlines captain and had a son who was an ASA airlines first officer. She  completed her Private Pilot course with me. Previously, she had been riding in the back seat of the family’s Cessna 172 a lot, while the men flew up front. She decided that, even though she felt intimidated by the airplane, she would rather be up front doing the flying herself. When she completed the course, she did most of the flying in their plane and she was the best Cessna 172 pilot in the family.

I have recently worked with a 54 year old woman who is the CEO of a large international corporation. She wants to buy her own plane and fly it herself for business travel. She is very busy, but learning very well. I have also been working with a 14-year old girl who was laying the foundation for her Private Pilot course later on when she turned 16. She is now 16 and training in the Private Pilot course with me. She wants to use flying for business and personal travel later on.

There are many women – past and present who have become famous in aviation and they inspire others to make their own successes. There are scholarships and grants that are offered by several aviation organizations and the Women in Aviation International organization has a wealth of resources to help. Check out the WAI website for further information and inspiration. Go for it! Updated 12-11-2019.

Steve Shaner

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