Two friends are on a journey to encourage more women to explore a career in aviation.
Only 6% of pilots are women. That number is pretty small. Despite the fact that female pilots are the minority in the flying industry, one of the oldest, most unique aviation events in existence today is the Air Race Classic, an all-female cross-country flying race! Established in 1929, the Air Race Classic is a day VFR flying race that spans four days and roughly 2,400 miles. The course changes yearly extending across not only the United States but occasionally into neighboring countries. Comprised of all general aviation aircraft, each team consists of a female pilot and female copilot with optional teammates. The race allows for up to 55 teams, to include a collegiate division to encourage participation from female student pilots. It is held in June, and has grown into an impressive aviation event to promote flying for women and general aviation.
One particular team, Amelia’s Aviatrices, is racing for the first time this year. Team Amelia’s Aviatrices’ two pilots, Liz, a commercial AMEL pilot and the team’s pilot, and Lisa, an airline pilot and the co-pilot, will be flying a 1965 Beechcraft S-35 “Bonanza”, referred to as “Nana.”
Although both women started their aviation journeys in a similar manner, they ended up taking very different paths to get them to where they are today. Liz’s career started off briefly in the Air Force but went primarily down the road of general aviation, while Lisa ended up flying in the Air Force for a good majority, and now flies for a commercial airline. Their paths crossed when both women were living in Mississippi a few years ago and were introduced to each other by Liz’s husband.
Both Lisa and Liz were excited to form a friendship around their common love of flying. Liz had an idea to create an event, Dreams of Wings, in Mississippi, to encourage and inspire women and girls to pursue their dreams in both aviation and aerospace. Together, with the help of volunteers and local business partners, they turned Liz’s idea into a successful community event.
Even though their lives moved on after the one-time event, Liz and Lisa continued Dreams of Wings’ mission each in her own way. And now, in 2016, they are teaming up to fly the Air Race Classic to not only challenge their pilot, navigation, teamwork, and communication skills, but to inspire and encourage girls, young ladies, and women to pursue their dream of becoming a female pilot. They want to show that girls, women of any age, marital status, with children, or without children can follow their hearts.
And their mission to inspire is working right now! Liz just received a message from a friend, “Your posts on flying have inspired me. I’d always planned on getting my license…(someday)…but seeing your posts has made me want “someday” to happen a bit sooner.”
The only way of increasing that 6% number in this industry is education, encouragement, support, and proof that flying is so much fun! Leading by example is the best way to get a message out, and hopefully young girls will see how awesome this aviation industry is- regardless of the route taken to get there.