As past recipients of Women in Aviation, International scholarships, Deborah Hecker and Evelyne Tinkl knew how career- and life-changing a WAI scholarship is. Both women had won WAI typerating scholarships in 1998 and went on to have successful airline careers. Their own positive experiences were the impetus behind launching and funding a scholarship for individuals in the intermediate stage of flight training they named the Keep Flying Scholarship.
Its purpose is to provide the next logical license or rating for a career pilot. Specifically, the Keep Flying Scholarship will ideally fund training for a commercial certificate or instrument, multiengine or flight instructor ratings.
“This is not the first time a scholarship winner has launched her own scholarship,” says WAI President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. “Other past scholarship winners want to give to another WAI member what they have experienced themselves. It’s a testament to the dedication of our members.”
At the 2011 WAI Conference this past February, the pilots from the Keep Flying Scholarship had a conversation with pilots from South Africa. Soon, it was decided to expand the Keep Flying Scholarship into developing countries. A meeting with Refilwe Ledwaba, founder of the Southern African Women in Aviation & Aerospace Industry (SAWIA), allowed both parties to exchange ideas and develop scholarship concepts. Within three hours, funding was arranged by Keep Flying Scholarship friend Christy Dobelli. In collaboration with SAWIA, the Keep Flying Scholarship for a night rating was awarded to South African pilot Michaela Meiswinkel on May 9.
“When I was 15, I had to decide on a career and make subject choices accordingly,” she said. “I started ‘shadowing’ at local flight schools, following instructors around, asking questions. Then a family friend took me up on my first flight, gave me the controls, and when that amazing feeling of having the aircraft in my hands and the open sky around me took hold, my interest became my passion.”
The Keep Flying Scholarship has been awarded annually since 2003. In 2009, Janet Patton, another airline pilot, joined the Keep Flying Scholarship team. To date, scholarships totaling over $36,000 have been awarded, and the scholarship has been privately funded by these three WAI members with the support of a small circle of airline pilot friends and by family members.
Scholarships available for 2012 will be posted at WAI.org in mid-July 2011. These scholarships will be awarded during the 23rd Annual International Women in Aviation Conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas, from March 8-10, 2012. To date 64 scholarships totaling $455,000 are available for 2012.