Females take flight over Frederick
Free, nationwide program aims to get women interested in aviation careers
On Saturday, participants of the Women Fly it Forward event at the Frederick Municipal Airport didn't need in-flight entertainment. The flying was the entertainment.
Victoria Neuville, a five-year pilot who moved to the area last year, organized the event, which allowed any woman who registered to take a free flight in the one of about 20 small planes or a helicopter.
Neuville said 181 women were in attendance. The airport allowed use of the runway, about 20 pilots volunteered their time and fuel, and several aviation-related organizations and other companies agreed to serve as sponsors.
"It was a great way to meet the aviation community," Neuville said, of the inaugural event for the Frederick area.
But her actual goal was to expose women to flight. A member of the Women of Aviation Worldwide Community, a grassroots organization that supports women getting into aviation, Neuville said she was one of many women around the country and world who put on similar events during the group's Women of Aviation Worldwide Week. International Women's Day and the anniversary of the first female getting her pilot's license in 1910 fall within the week, which extended from March 7 until today.
"I never had any of this when I wanted to fly," said Luz Beattie, one of the event's seven female volunteer pilots. A corporate pilot for one of the event's sponsors, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Beattie has been flying for about 20 years, she said.
"[Women] are a minority in aviation," she noted. So it's important to "just open up the doors and provide information" to women who might want to get into flying but don't know how to get started.
Programs given out to women who registered included information about different types of pilot certifications and how to go about signing up for flying lessons. It also included a coupon for $20 off a flight at Frederick Flight Center.
Jennifer Storm, the director of public relations for AOPA, said only six percent of the country's pilots are female.
"We're here supporting this event to increase that population," she said.
Storm said some women she spoke to just flew for fun, but others were coming to see if flight training was something they wanted to explore seriously.
Diana Johnson of Libertytown attended with her daughter, granddaughter and a friend of the family.
"I'm glad they gave us this opportunity," Johnson said. "It was totally awesome... I really commend the women who did this."
Johnson's daughter, Raime Smith, said she came to conquer her fear of heights.
"I couldn't keep my eyes open," she admitted. "But when I did open my eyes, the scenery was beautiful. It was worth it."
Although she's not quite ready to face her fear regularly for lessons, the experience did make her think about becoming a pilot someday, she said.
Susan Crowson, a Frederick resident, brought her 17-year-old daughter, Christine, to the event after hearing about it through a friend who works at the AOPA.
"It's a great idea because I would never do it otherwise," Susan Crowson said. She enjoyed the scenery, especially the mountain ridge and the patterns on the farm fields, she added.
Devon Casey, another Frederick resident, brought her 7-year-old daughter, Sadira Kirkham. They agreed that riding in a plane over their hometown was "a good way to spend a girl's day together," Casey said.
Sadira said she enjoyed her experience, and would think about becoming a pilot someday.