With its largest attendance in a decade, the 23rd annual Women in Aviation Conference, held in Dallas, from March 8-10, featured dozens of companies and organizations that were actively recruiting new employees.
“This year, our numbers were up almost 8% from last year, and an all-time record for us,” said WAI President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. “The official count is 3,350 attendees who represent all aspects and interests within the aviation community, including military, commercial, corporate and recreational flying.”
Other conference highlights include:
- Attendance of 3,350 representatives from 12 countries in addition to the United States. The largest number of international attendees were from Nigeria, Canada and the United Kingdom in that order. Shirley Su, who is beginning the process of organizing WAI’s first chapter in China (based in Zhuhai), attended the conference. Through her translator, Su likened the growth of aviation in China to a Texas-style “gusher.”
- The Exhibit Hall displayed 131 companies and organizations, representing all aspects of the aviation community.
- 85 scholarships were distributed to WAI members at every stage of life from university students to mature members seeking a mid-life career change to aviation. A total of $559,680 scholarships were awarded.
- The WAI silent auction raised $18,500 for WAI’s Endowment Fund, used for scholarships and educational programs.
- Three women and the entire group of the 1929 National Air Derby were officially inducted into the WAI Pioneer Hall of Fame during the closing banquet on Saturday night. They included: the 1929 National Air Derby pilots’, whose adventures were recently chronicled in the award-winning documentary “Breaking Through the Clouds;” Bernice (“Bee”) Falk Haydu, WASP Class 44-7, and best known for her service to the WASP organization (Order of Fifinella) as its president from 1975 to 1978 and her role in gaining WASP veteran’s benefits; Mary Magdalene (“Maggie”) Maga, one of the United States Navy’s first women aircraft mechanics, who trained and served during World War II as an Aviation Machinist Mate; and Elizabeth (“Elsie”) MacGill, often cited as the first woman in the world to qualify as a professional aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer, and “Queen” of the Hawker Hurricane, an airplane that sports many of her customizations.
New for this year’s conference was an outreach to girls called “Bring Your Daughter to the Conference Day,” where WAI reached out to members, Girl Scouts and the local community to bring girls ages 10 to 17 for a one-day program designed to spark girls’ interest in an aviation career. The program was made possible through a grant by the UPS Foundation and included speakers, a luncheon for the girls and their chaperones, age-appropriate activities and a tour of the WAI Exhibit Hall, where many exhibitors, having been alerted in advance to the program, were prepared with fun trade show giveaways for the girls to collect. In addition, the girls learned how to read a sectional chart and were given the opportunity to fly with Microsoft Flight Simulator. Approximately 160 girls participated.
“In addition to the daughters, nieces, granddaughters and friends of our members, we invited local AOPA and EAA members to participate,” said Dr. Chabrian. “Dallas-area Girl Scouts were invited, which complemented the Girl Scouts USA’s 100th anniversary and their declaring 2012 ‘The Year of the Girl.’”
“Daughter Day” was not the only outreach Women in Aviation, International performed during the conference. There were Aerospace Educator workshops where local teachers could obtain continuing education credits, an FAA Safety Seminar where pilots and mechanics, both WAI members and the local community alike, could receive WINGS credit, and an Aviation Maintenance professional IA Renewal seminar. At the Saturday morning General Session there was also a salute to Aviation Education, with recognition and tribute to EAA, the Girl Scouts, Aviation Explorers, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has enacted a new Women’s initiative project.
The 24th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference will be held at the Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee, from March 14-16, 2013. For more information: WAI.org
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