Few industries aide global cooperation as much as the aviation industry. With advances in technology, flying has become increasingly more accessible leading to a new demand for aviation related jobs. Women in Aviation International (WAI) is a non-profit organization that promotes the encouragement and advancement of women as students, educators, and professionals in aviation fields. Their impressive roster includes astronauts and airline executives. On September 23, 2017, WAI chapters from 13 countries and 31 states sponsored Girls in Aviation Day, an opportunity for middle school and high school girls to interact with women in a variety of aviation related fields. Everett Community College joined with WAI to welcome five girls from the LaVenture and Mount Vernon Boys & Girls Clubs to their Girls in Aviation Day events as well as dozens of girls from across Skagit and Snohomish counties.
Senator Maria Cantwell kicked off the event by stressing the global importance of the United States aviation industry and the need for women, especially in STEM fields, to become involved in aviation. As the ranking member of the senate subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, Senator Cantwell inspired the girls to strive for excellence and to apply their passions to aviation careers. The girls also interacted with guest speakers from Boeing, Delta Air Lines, Aviation Technical Services, and Alaska Airlines. All the speakers shared their clear passion for their work as well as provided advice for women interested in pursuing aviation careers. “The girls were inspired at how these women made it to the top of their careers,” observed Nathan Allen, Director of STEM Initiatives for Boys & Girls Clubs of Skagit County, “they asked so many questions both about the careers and the education needed.”
Everett Community College also provided the girls with opportunities to explore airplane manufacturing. The girls created circuity, tested wiring, flew wooden airplanes, witnessed the power of a radial engine with an attached propeller, and climbed inside a retired Boeing 727 formally used by FedEx. The girls loved these hands-on activities which helped them visualize the aviation industry. Jazmin Miller, a LaVenture club member, enjoyed learning about the history behind the retired FedEx plane saying, “I liked that it was old and rusty [and] the story behind it.” Jessica Risch, a Mount Vernon club member, returned from the activity with the radial engine with wind-blown hair and a huge smile on her face. “The propeller almost made me go off the ground!” she said.
The core message from Girls in Aviation Day is that young women are wanted and needed in the aviation industry. Beyond advice on scholarships and post-secondary programs, the speakers and activity leaders invited the girls to explore the world, to choose hands-on activities traditionally done by men, and to fly.