Oklahoma has a rich history of women making significant impacts on the aviation and aerospace industry. From Bessie Coleman, who became the first African American female pilot, to Shannon Lucid, who was part of NASA’s first class of female astronauts, many pioneers in the aviation and aerospace industry have roots in Oklahoma.
Today we can reflect on those accomplishments and recognize the strides women have made in the state’s aviation and aerospace industry as we celebrate the third annual Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day. We can also look ahead and envision what the future might hold for women in an industry that annually contributes more than $43 billion in economic activity to Oklahoma.
The aviation and aerospace industry is the second-largest economic contributor in the state, and, according to the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, nearly 240,400 jobs are supported by or benefit from the industry.
Students in the OU School of Aviation Studies are hoping to forge their own paths in this growing field and inspire the next generation to do the same through their involvement in aviation organizations like Women in Aviation.
Members of Women in Aviation Sooner Chapter were among about 20 students, faculty, staff, board members and industry partners representing the OU School of Aviation Studies attending the Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day luncheon held Nov. 1 at the AAR Aircraft Services hangar at Will Rogers World Airport.
The event drew a crowd of nearly 550 aviation enthusiasts from across the globe, including 60 members of the Ninety-Nines, two Mercury 13 trainees and the family of Pearl Carter Scott, the female aviator who inspired the creation of Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day.
Aviation student Allix Huggan said being a part of Women in Aviation and attending the luncheon have been the best experiences she’s had since starting the aviation program. Being involved in Women in Aviation has helped her make connections with women in the industry, receive study advice and find a group of mentors who are helping her move toward her career goals, she said.
“I realized how many women have pioneered and made it possible for girls like me to have aviation as a career option,” Huggan said. “I feel that a lot of women don’t even see or think about aviation as an optional career.”
Huggan didn’t consider pursuing a career in aviation until the end of her senior year of high school, even though she grew up in the military and practically lived in hangars.
“It never occurred to me that flying could also be a career for me,” she said. “After hearing about OU’s partnership with Southwest in the Destination 225 program, I did more research and realized that aviation was exactly what I wanted to do in the future.”
Brittany Holt, another OU aviation student and Women in Aviation member, also attended the luncheon. She said Women in Aviation has been an invaluable resource while pursuing her aviation degree.
“I walked into a meeting one day and have been hooked ever since,” she said. “We are a very tight-knit group, and they have helped me learn a lot. We are always there for each other for support, which is tremendous in college and in the industry.”
Holt said her classes within the OU School of Aviation Studies are opening her eyes to the many career options available in the industry. She said she plans to go into the safety area of the industry, eventually working in aircraft accident investigation.
“When people think about aviation, they automatically assume pilots, but there are so many more options out there,” she said. “I believe this program has set me up to be successful in any aspect of aviation I choose to pursue and has made me a well-rounded person for the industry.”
The OU School of Aviation Studies is committed to encompassing a diverse student body, being involved in the community and growing the aviation and aerospace industry. For more information about the school, visit https://pacs.ou.edu/aviation/.
About Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day
Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day went into effect Nov. 1, 2017, as the result of Senate Bill 230. It’s held each Dec. 9, the birthday of Eula Pearl Carter Scott of Marlow. Under the tutelage of legendary aviator Wiley Post, she became the youngest pilot in the United States with her first solo flight on Sept. 12, 1929. She later worked as a stunt pilot. For more information, visit facebook.com/OKWIAADay.