Fly It Forward Challenge introduces women to general aviation

During Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week 2014, March 3-9, entrants in the Fly It Forward Challenge organized activities that drew more than 26,000 attendees in 96 locations on four continents. Pilots flew approximately 1,000 hours to introduce 5,703 girls and women to flight in a small aircraft.

The Fly It Forward Challenge, held annually as part of the Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week celebration, offers a fun incentive for aviation enthusiasts to share their passion with girls and women unfamiliar with the industry. More than $12,000 worth of prizes and trophies were available through the various challenges, contests, and drawings.

Changing perceptions and sparking vocations is the goal of the week. The Fly It Forward Challenge encourages entrants to offer girls and women with no prior connection with the industry an opportunity to try various aviation activities, hands-on.

In 2014, activities at Fly It Forward events included practicing air traffic control, using rivet guns to make souvenir key chains, exploring aircraft mechanisms, learning about various aviation careers or hobbies, meeting outstanding women of aviation, and experiencing the magic of flight in a small aircraft.

Kirsten Brazier, who organized the event in Langley, BC, Canada, elevated the concept to a level never accomplished before, according to organizers. Leading more than 200 volunteers, Brazier coordinated a record-setting 1,310 first flights, which makes the Langley Regional Airport the Most Female Pilot Friendly Airport Worldwide in 2014, and makes Brazier, the winner of the Event Organizer Contest’s $1,000 prize.

Not surprisingly, Frank Walcher, co-winner of the Most Supportive Male Pilot Worldwide title, flew at the Langley Regional Airport and so did the first runner-up, George Tecklenborg.

However, the Calhoun Air Center in Victoria, Texas, led the charge to bring some world titles back to the United States, world title-less since 2011. Two of the pilots contributing to the Calhoun Air Center’s success, Dianna Stanger and Tom Keane, stand at the top of the podium in their respective categories: Most Dedicated Female Pilot Worldwide and Most Supportive Male Pilot Worldwide.

Calhoun Air Center conducted more than 460 first flights at three locations, including 299 at its Victoria location to win the Most Female Pilot Friendly Training Center Worldwide title. Moreover, Victoria, Texas, is first runner up for the Most Female Pilot Friendly Airport Worldwide title.

Overall, Canada maintains its lead by winning two thirds of the titles, with two schools in Ontario winning first and second runner up spots in the training center category and Lachute, QC, reaching the second runner up position in the airport category.

Australia took the challenge for the first time in 2014. Due to overwhelming enthusiasm, events quickly doubled or tripled in size as compared to the original plans, leading two Australian pilots, Diana Jemson of Strathalbyn, SA, and Euan Harrison of Caloundra, QLD, to reach the podium in their respective categories.

“When I launched the Fly It Forward Challenge to celebrate the centennial of the first female pilot license worldwide in 2010, just 310 girls and women went on a first flight during the week,” says Mireille Goyer, president of the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide. “In five years, the number of first flights during the week has increased by more 1,800%. Today, the celebration has become, without a doubt, the world’s largest annual female aviation gathering.”

The 5th annual Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week will take place March 2-8, 2015.

In 1915, Marie Marvingt, third woman to earn a pilot license worldwide, flew a bombing mission over a German military base in occupied Metz and became the first woman to fly in combat. She received the Croix de Guerre for her heroic action.

To celebrate the centennial of Marie’s accomplishment, Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week’s theme in 2015 will be: “Serving with honor: 100 years of female pilots in combat.”

For more information: WomenOfAviationWeek.org

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