A mechanical engineer talked about her role in helping protect US sailors and soldiers from missile strikes with her work on early warning radar systems. A mechanic recalled her enthusiasm at getting her first paying job working on helicopters after a childhood spent tinkering with machines. Loretta Alkalay, a professor at Vaughn College, and a licensed drone pilot took her quad copter on a short but exciting flight in the auditorium of a school in Manhattan and for all of it a crowd of girls aged 9 to 17 looked on with rapt attention.
Girls in Aviation day events were held at schools and airports and parks worldwide on Saturday as part of the effort to encourage girls to spread their wings and fly. United hosted two events, at its two busy hubs, Chicago O’Hare and San Francisco International and released a video to show the many jobs available in commercial air transport.
I’ve written for the RunwayGirlNetwork about the stalled numbers of women who chose to enter the cockpit as professional airline pilots. United’s video produced for Girls in Aviation day, shows that the growth has been more encouraging in other areas.
At the Children’s Workshop School in Manhattan, where I attended with two 12-year-old friends, the girls saw exhibits about the principals of flight, the difference between helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. They spelled their names using the aeronautical alphabet and had some of their misunderstandings corrected.
For example, Mikaela, a student from Connecticut learned about the important safety role of flight attendants. While Hanin, from Stamford saw how helicopters can be used to shoot Hollywood movies. Her eyes opened wide when told that the doors of the aircraft are removed so the camera operator can get a clear view.
Girl scouts attending the activities qualify for a special merit badge and those in the troop at our event certainly worked for that embroidered patch. They peppered an eight-member panel of women working in the industry with questions, including safety questions, so I need not have been concerned about frightening the children by discussing my book, The Crash Detectives.
How long can a pilot fly before they need to stop for a rest? How high can an airplane climb? Answers usually had to begin with the disclaimer, “it all depends.” The variety in aviation makes it difficult to have absolute answers about anything. And one question that remains open in 2016 is why aviation needs a day dedicated to girls to boost their lagging participation in it.
On the upside, however, there is no shortage of role models who have made it a priority to encourage girls to take to the skies. Parents of girls, teachers of girls, do your part. Girls just wanna soar. And why not?
I am a journalist, a published author, speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.