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During Saturday’s annual Girls in Aviation Day at the Gordon K. Bush Airport near Albany, Ohio, student members of Ohio University’s chapter of Women in Aviation International (WAI) showed a local crowd of young girls that when it comes to their career goals, the sky’s the limit.
“In male-dominated fields like aviation, it’s important for girls to be inspired at a young age,” WAI chapter president Kristen Morris said, adding that this year’s event included more hands-on activities like flight planning and time to try the flight simulators.
“The purpose of the event is to open up opportunities to girls at an early age, show the career opportunities in aviation, and give our students a chance to use the talents they’ve learned to impart that knowledge to the young girls who participate,” said Mark Atkinson, Russ College aviation business administrator.
Special guest Lieutenant Frankie Williams, a member of the local National Guard, arrived at the event via helicopter and spoke to the girls about what got her into the sky.
“What made me want to be a pilot? The fact that I thought I couldn't do it,” admitted Williams. “Initially, a friend of mine in special forces kept pushing me and pushing me to go to flight school, but I would say, ‘No, I’m not smart enough.’ But he kept pushing me, and I finally said, ‘I’m going to do this.’ It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.”
On her journey, Williams faced obstacles – one being her fear of heights.
“I’m petrified of heights,” she said. “I’ve been scared blind. It’s okay to be scared and okay to be afraid, but the only way to get over that is to face your fears.”
After tours of Williams’ helicopter, attendees broke into two groups. Younger girls studied the science behind aviation and designed their own paper airplanes, while older girls planned a flight to Chicago and saw it come to life in the Russ College’s virtual flight simulator.
Amber Duff, who brought her ten-year-old daughter to the event, said her own interest in flight came from growing up near the airport – and that she wanted to let her daughter have the chance to develop the same interest.
“My daughter is extremely interested in all kinds of science, so we take her to a lot of events like this,” Duff said.
In addition to hosting community outreach events such as Girls in Aviation Day, WAI also works with Russ College students of various disciplines who hope to use of their engineering and tech skills in the aviation industry.
“Being interested in aviation doesn’t necessarily mean you want to fly,” explained WAI Advisor Theresa Meyer. “You might want to research avionics – that’s electrical engineering. You might want to design a better aircraft – well, that’s mechanical engineering. So we bring in all of that so that no matter what their interest in aviation is, from flight management to engineering, they’ll find that we have what they need.”