Women Fly it Forward at KFDK on March 10th

5:19 PM

Editor's note: Everyone who reads this blog – and my former digital magazine by the same name – knows I have always been a big proponent of anyone who works towards a goal of interesting more girls and women in GA in hopes that they can increase the female pilot population. Rarely do I meet someone with the verve and motivation of Victoria Neuville, who presents a guest post below. I met Toria at the Podcaster's party at last year's AirVenture, and in that tiny moment, I could just tell she was one of us...a true “Airplanista”...the epitome of what it means to “fly it forward.”

Victoria Neuville
By Victoria Neuville,
for Airplanista Aviation Blog

Last year, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first female pilot earning her license. It was around this time that I learned that only 6% of the pilots in the world are women.  The number of women in aviation was never something I thought about much. I was so preoccupied in my flight training to care about the genders of the people around me.

Hearing this fact got me thinking that my journey may have been a lot easier with female pilot support. How many woman pilots did I come across in my training? How many of my girlfriends did I have study sessions with? How many women did I see at the airport that I could share flying stories with or go to for advice? The answer was three. Just three women. These three women I only saw in passing and was never able to share any flying experiences with. That number stuck with me.
In December of 2010, I heard of an initiative to introduce more women to aviation, it was called The Centennial of Women Pilots. I saw something amazing happen. Many girls and women were flocking to the airport to experience flight in GA aircraft. I saw pilots –  both male and female – taking women and girls for flights. I saw smiles and I heard stories of women who couldn’t wait to learn more. Like me, these women dreamed about aviation and since their first flight have not been able to stop thinking about it. The Centennial of Women Pilots movement eventually morphed into Women of Aviation Week celebrating the week the first licensed female flyer receiver her pilot certificate. Events called “Fly it Forward” were to be held during this week, and I had to be a part of it.
Dana Zajko on her first heli flight

I was relatively new to the Frederick, Maryland area when I organized our local Fly it Forward event last year, and I don’t think I've ever been so worried or so stressed about the possible outcome. I had lined up 26 airplane pilots, EAA ground crew to marshal them, arranged catering donations and exhibits, even a visit by an all-female Air Force Huey squadron. Some pilots flew hundreds of miles to take part, we even had a woman fly her R44 helicopter down from Pennsylvania to introduce other women to her favorite way to fly.

It turned out that I had nothing to fear. Women and girls flocked to the airport. At the end of the day, 185 had received free flights. The event won my home base of KFDK the “Most Female Pilot Friendly Airport Worldwide” title for 2011. I know of two women who are actively pursuing their pilot certificates because of the event.

It’s 2012 and naturally I have to outdo myself. This year’s event on March 10th at Frederick Municipal Airport will have many pilots willing and eager to introduce women to aviation. We’ll have tethered hot air balloon rides donated by Tailwinds Over Frederick, and special guests such as Sarah Fraher from Flying Wild Alaska, wing walking airshow performer and Stearman pilot Jane Wicker, and female members from the United States Air Force. It is an event where girls and women who have never been in small aircraft before receive free plane rides, but the whole family is welcome for a day of fun at the airport- that includes the free balloon rides, too!
This year my ultimate goal is different. Yes, I want as many women to come out to the airport as possible, the worldwide title the second year in a row wouldn’t be bad either, but I want one ambitious lady to come away with more than just a free ride. I want at least one woman who attends this event to have the best chance possible at earning her private pilot certificate. So I decided there would be an essay contest and luckily I found a great sponsor, Aviation Insurance Resources, to support it and a local school, Frederick Flight Center, to give the winner a discounted rental rate. This flight award will have a value of over $3000. Let’s hope this brings one future aviatrix to her first solo.
One young girl who took a "fly it forward"
first flight was Victoria, right.
There is just over a month until the event and I am always welcoming more sponsors, ground volunteers, and pilots. This event wouldn’t be possible without all of their enthusiastic support. Enthusiasm is contagious, especially in a world today where it seems so much harder for GA and where the total pilot population, not just the women, seems to be dwindling. Someone once told me that he believed that women could be “GA’s secret weapon” and I believe we are. It can all start with one event that could start a chain reaction. So Fly it Forward with me during March 10th!

If you can’t make it to mine, find one in your area or start your own! Make sure that all women you know can say that during their flight training, they knew more than three women who were with them along the way.

For more about the Frederick event visit: www.WomenFlyItForward.com or email me at WomenFlyItForward@gmail.com. To learn more about the global Women of Aviation Week visit www.WomenOfAviationWeek.org.

A video explaining the Frederick Airport Fly it Forward event was produced by Len Costa of The Pilot Report and is available here.

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