Meet the Military – Women in Aviation International Conference 2014

Women and men crowded into the 2014 Women in Aviation International 25th Conference. This international event gives pilots and aviation specialists the opportunity to interface with industry and meet those with similar careers and interests. Daughters of members also had their own day to visit and be introduced to the aviation field. Did you know only 6% of the pilots flying for airlines are women? Why? That’s a good question and one seriously being considered on many levels, but I can happily answer it is not for lack of talented, adventurous, intelligent women who want to fly, and the men I encountered at the convention were more than encouraging.  A Washington Times article mentions that the percentage of women flying in the military are 2% Air Force, 1% Marine Corps, 4% Navy, and there are 513 Army female helicopter pilots.

With a camera and limited time to meet, chat, and photograph attendees, I focused on pilots wearing a distinguishable type uniform…a military flight suit. While these Nomex (flame resistant) suits can look the same, they vary by the attached nametags and patches indicating the pilot’s service, command, and squadron.

Barely outside the registration door, I noticed a friendly United States Coast Guard group. They had white nametags with the familiar Coast Guard orange stripe across them. For more information on the aircraft they fly, check out these links about the MH-65 Dolphin Rescue helicopter, the T-6 Texan II, and the USCG C-130 “Hercules”. The Coast Guard pilots below come from Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii; Hitron-Jacksonville, Florida, and NAS Whiting Field Milton, Florida.

Left: LCDR Breanna Knutson USCG, MH-65 Dolphin pilot, LT Becki Fosha USCG, T-6 Instructor pilot, LTJG Staci Kronberg USCG, C-130 pilot, LCDR Ernie Gameng USCG, C-130 pilot & Avionics Upgrade Transition Team

Left: LCDR Breanna Knutson USCG, MH-65 Dolphin pilot;  LTJG Staci Kronberg USCG, C-130 pilot; LT Becki Fosha USCG, T-6 Instructor pilot; LCDR Ernie Gameng USCG, C-130 pilot & Avionics Upgrade Transition Team

The two pilots below were manning the Whirly Girls booth. LT Andrea Giuliano works in the United States Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron TWO FIVE, nick-named the “Island Knights.”  She flies the MH-60s and is transitioning to TH-57 (Bell 206) at the Heltraron Eight Squadron. The LT on the right flew MH-60s at HSC-25 squadron based at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and now flies TH-57 Sea Ranger in the “Eightballers” squadron at NAS Whiting Field, Milton, FL.  LT Giuliano passed along this photo taken in Guam of the MH-60 and fellow females in the squadron.

LCDR Andrea Giuliano and fellow LCDR

LT Andrea Giuliano (left) and fellow LT

Pilots from the Guam Squadron

Pilots from the Guam “Island Knights” Squadron

The Whirly Girls are “a support network for pilots and provide a variety of scholarships to women for helicopter training.” If Sarah and Andrea are an example of the members, then they are a supportive and friendly group. If interested in flying helicopters or making contacts, check the organization out at Whirly Girls.

MAJ Laura Nealon, U2 pilot/ T-38 Evaluator/U2 Instructor and MAJ Sarah Eccles, U2 pilot

MAJ Laura Nealon, U2 pilot/ T-38 Evaluator/U2 Instructor and MAJ Sarah Eccles, U2 pilot

The next stop was by the 99s booth (an organization of women pilots which promotes the advancement of aviation) where I met 99s and Air Force MAJs Sarah Eccles and Laura Nealon (pictured above). They fly the U2 Dragon Lady, a high altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Both said they love their job and the unique aircraft. The U2 is the only current aircraft in the Air Force inventory that requires the wearing of a pressure suit when flying. For pilots who like a challenge, the U2 has “bicycle” gear and a support vehicle to assist in landings. Check out this Photo Gallery that shows many aspects related to flying the U2. Below is a closer look at their unit patch.

U2 Dragon Lady Patch

U2 Dragon Lady Patch

Also at the 99s booth, I met the current president Martha Phillips from the Ventura County chapter. She convinced me to join the 99s at last years convention by promising me members could use the 99s hut at the Sun-N-Fun fly-in to cool off and use the restroom. Needless to say, it was an easy sell. For more information on the Ninety-Nines formed back in 1929, check out their website.

MarthaSandyWAI2014-2

Sandy Parks, Spaceport 99s and President Martha Phillips, Ventura County 99s

Nagin Cox, an engineer at NASA JPL Propulsion Lab, gave several presentations at WAI. This one called “Hitting the Road on Mars” talked about the Curiosity rover. The vehicle, about the size of a Mini-Cooper, is two times larger than Mars rovers Opportunity or Spirit. A few interesting things from her talk were; she has her watch set to Mars time, we go to Mars every 26 months (closest window), and the biggest challenge we’ve had with Mars is how to look for life? The search helped to create the new field of Astrobiology.

Curiosity1

Nagin Cox – Presentation “Hitting the Road on Mars”

Dr. Kate Landdeck, a historian who has researched women pilots in the military, gave a presentation about the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). These women took over ferrying aircraft during World War II, when there was a shortage of male pilots in the US. Many believed women weren’t up to the task, but their numbers that made it through pilot training were equivalent to those of the males, and their accomplishments confirmed their success. After the war, the government played down their involvement (pretended they had never existed). Finally in the 1970s, they began to get attention and in 2010 they received Congressional Gold Medals. They had a float dedicated to them in the 2014 Rose Bowl Parade.

WASP signing books and booklets about their history.

WASP Bee, Millie, and Dawn signing books and booklets about their history for a younger generation of pilots.

WASP signing after history presentation.

WASP signing after history presentation with four of the attending WASP.

The old guard with the new.

The old guard with the new. Maj Ruth Meloeny, USAF Reserves C-17 Airdrop Instructor Pilot with WASP Dawn.

WASP Florence

WASP Florence

Hat with pins from WASP events.

Hat with pins from WASP events.

If you’re interested in learning a little more about the 99s, WAI, WASP, or flying opportunities for women in the military, make sure to click some of the links in this blog.

Blue skies,

Sandy

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Girls Fly Too- Graduation from Air Force Pilot Training

Today’s blog honors two occasions…my niece’s graduation from pilot training and Women in Aviation week. If you’ve spent any time on my website or reading through earlier blogs, you already know that aviation is a household word and a lifestyle in my family. Thus when someone gets a pilot’s license of any kind, it’s a big deal.

New Wings on the name tag

New Wings on the name tag

So in January, the family headed down to the rousing town of Del Rio, Texas. Once we left San Antonio, half of our cell phones went on hiatus in the great expanses of Texas lacking in cell towers (or really much populace at all save for perhaps a few prairie dogs). The perfect place to put a base with pilots learning to fly. Onward we pressed in the face of adversity, forewarned by my brother to be wary of speed traps. Imagine our surprise later when we passed the car with his family temporarily parked aside the road and my brother speaking to the nice gentleman whose car flashed colored lights. My brother must have smiled nice, because the man in blue gave him a warning and sent him on his way.

We had no doubts when we closed upon our destination as a buzz of aircraft swarmed the airfield. Opposite patterns ran to parallel runways, one which catered to T-38 jets and the other to T-6 turboprops. The entrance to the base took us past a line of aircraft on static display. We later discovered my father had flown a good number of them. Thus, as we traditionally do, we gathered all the military folks, put them in flight suits (some suits had shrunk since retirement) and did a photo shoot in front of the T(trainer)-28, a plane my dad had flown in his pilot training days.

Grandfather (KC-135), Dad (FB-111), Graduate, Uncle (Test Pilot)

Grandfather (KC-135), Dad (FB-111), Graduate, Uncle (Test Pilot)

To give you an idea of how proud my brother is of his daughter, just take a look at this close-up of the two. Kinda says it all.

Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter

Later, after formal ceremonies inside where awards were presented, all the students went out to the flight line, where their chosen “rated” Air Force officer officially pinned on their wings. My niece chose her dad and they pinned them on in front of the T-1, a trainer for those pilots going on to fly heavy aircraft. She is thrilled to be going to C(cargo)-17s.

Father pinning official flight wings on his daughter in front of her aircraft

Father pinning official flight wings on his daughter in front of her aircraft

The first plane my niece flew in training was the T-6 Texan II turbo-prop built by Raytheon Aircraft as a military trainer. The second half of Undergraduate Pilot Training brought a switch to the T-1, built by Raytheon and Hawker Beechcraft, with handling characteristics mimicking heavier aircraft.

T-6 Texan II

T-6 Texan II

T-1

T-1

A photo of the women in the family was taken in front of the T-6 and included Grandma, Aunt (that’s me), and my niece’s mom. We may not have been the military pilots in the family, but we all gave her encouragement through the years that she could achieve the dream of being a pilot.

Aunt, Graduate, Grandmother, Mom

Aunt, Graduate, Grandmother, Mom

The next photo is of my niece in front of the T-6 with her shiny new wings visible above the chest pocket of her uniform jacket. After all the stress and effort to get to this point, I can guarantee she has a lot of pride in those wings.

2Lt. Moffett in front of the T-6 Texan II

2Lt. Moffett in front of the T-6 Texan II

Of course, I had to have my special moment for a photo. I couldn’t be prouder and am glad my niece had an opportunity to fly for the Air Force that when I was her age wasn’t open to me. Thankfully times have changed.

Aunt and Niece

Aunt and Niece

Any time family gets together to celebrate there are always presents or food. Since we were on the road for this celebration, we ate out and brought gifts. Tradition has it that pilots build a “me” collection of plaques, patches, photos, and models as they go through their careers. This T-1 model of her first aircraft is a great way to start.

Niece with T-1 Model

Niece with T-1 Model

After all the ceremonies and photos, it’s dinnertime. For the military, it means official mess dress (cummerbund and all). But once they hit the bar, dinner changes to party time and the jackets come off. Just to show you formality doesn’t come without some sense of humor, I took a shot of the  pilots’ party shirts not visible when their  jackets are on. My niece altered these shirts for herself and a few friends (her mom helped to get them done in time). Those are shoes on her shirt. Every girl needs a pair or two to party, and these are a lot hotter than suede flight boots.

Congrats new Air Force pilot 2Lt. Moffett.

Party (Mess Dress) Shirts

Party (Mess Dress) Shirts