WAI Wraps Successful 2020 Conference


Women in Aviation International (WAI) hosted nearly 4,500 attendees and 180 exhibitors at its 31st annual conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, last week. Representatives were present from 31 countries including Nigeria, Canada, Ghana, Australia and Iceland. In addition to speakers and professional development and education seminars, the conference featured Girls in Aviation Day Orlando, where 250 8- to 17-year-olds participated aviation-themed activities, meetings with female aviators and an aviation careers panel discussion.

 “I was inspired to meet so many engaging members and corporations that believe in our WAI mission to continue creating and growing programs to assist with our members’ personal and professional development,” said WAI CEO Allison McKay. “Together we can ensure that the aviation industry has the talent needed for a vibrant and sustainable future.”

The conference included the induction of U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, pilot and airshow performer Patricia “Patty” Jean Wagner and the U.S. Army’s First Women Rotary Wing Aviators into WAI’s International Pioneer Hall of Fame. WAI also distributed 151 scholarships at the event for “academic use, lifestyle enhancement, and flight training.” The scholarships, which are valued at $831,365, bring the total awarded by the organization since 1995 to more than $13 million. Next year’s International Women in Aviation Conference will be held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada, from March 11-13, 2021.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. I wonder what they’d say if I started the GOWMPA (Grumpy Old White Male Pilot’s Assn) and had an annual conference for just that segment of the population. We now have the Black Pilots Assn, the Gay Pilots Assn, the WAI … why not GOWMPA? Has a nice ring to it … no ? Anyone interested?

    I’m calling MISANDRY !!

    • I never needed a support group for “inspiration” to start flying; I was going to do it and I did.

      • Precisely, Mark. And as others have pointed out … despite all the herculean efforts to attract more females to aviation, the participation rate has been stubbornly below 10% for decades. Not one of us here in the GOWMPA wouldn’t lend a helping hand or even go above and beyond to help an interested young female get into aviation. But when they invent their own one-sided organizations instead of including the male side of the group, I have major heartburn with it all. Just like the organization mentioned in a blog last week where they want gender neutral terminology in FAA documents. Give us all a break ladies. Use all your energy getting INTO aviation instead of trying to change things that have nothing to do with same.

        • I can’t say I belong to any all girl aviation clubs and wouldn’t join one. Mainly I hang out in online forums where I am the only female. I catch a lot of hell there not because I’m female (they actually are pretty nice and tolerant about that) but because I espouse a rule free world view where the skies are a common for everyone to enjoy – nobody owns it, therefore nobody can dictate any rules about it. Also, I will call it like I see it, and point out the elephants in the room, and most old codgers don’t like uncomfortable truths, even though I’m pointing them out with the best of intentions.

          There are many serious problems with the sorry state of aviation that are keeping new people out, not just women:

          1) It’s outrageously expensive. A commercial airline pilot who spent 25/30 days every month in the air was complaining to me just the other day: “A Bonanza is a million bucks. It’s a good airplane, but seriously, it’s out of the 1940’s and not worth a million dollars”. Most people, if they even have a job, live paycheck to paycheck, or are just out of high school with lint in their pocket, or aren’t even land or home owners yet.
          2) There is a steep learning curve.
          3) It’s inherently dangerous.
          4) It’s overloaded with noxious, toxic rules and regulations. Don’t under estimate this one just because it is far down the list at #4. It’s a huge turn off for many.
          5) Airplane parts are scarce, even rare, to build an airplane out of. Contrast to say computer parts to build your own computer, which you can find used for almost for free.
          6) Aviation people can be serious money grubbing or all out just dickheads. I’ve met a few. This probably mirrors the general population, but still. They will never part with anything except through the nose and try to price gouge everyone.
          7) At some point EAA club members began building faster, all metal sporty race planes. One, so they could go places, do aerobatics, but probably two because they wouldn’t have to recover them every X years. All the fabric primary gliders and slower flying planes (read: approachable to new beginning pilots) went into a big proverbial bonfire. That was it – kids and women were out. No more primary gliders and tow planes, no new pilots. Period. End of the road.
          8) Land to make your own grass strip and build your own T-hanger on, is very expensive. Trailering your plane, or hangering it with monthly fees, are also expensive.
          9) The FAA is trying to ruin it even further with RemoteID and ADB-S. First the GA pilots were in a row about it, now the RC pilots are absolutely livid and ready to riot. In front of the FAA building in Washington. You think aviation is sleepy and dead, until the FAA decides to go arch-villian on you.
          10) Once in barnstorming days it was a big fun thing to have an off field landing – the local farmers and peeps came out to see your shiny plane and offer any assistance they could to help you drag it out of the mud. Now, they can be downright hostile – one of our forum members made a flip on his baclk landing in a state park – the park ranger immediately started writing out tickets and spewing out removal ultimatums. Seriously? Seriously?

          I could rattle of 10 more, and then another 10 more, and even write an article. Right now you have bigger problems – with a global pandemic, airlines and airports are grinding to a halt and shutting down. Marginal airlines may go out of business before this subsides. More local airports may get closed down as people focus more on survival and shun recreation.

          So is aviation dead? Are women absent from aviation? Heck no… a few years ago, when shut out, the goal post moved elsewhere.

          Hundreds if not thousands flocked to paramotors, which could be thrown in the back of a pickup truck and taken anywhere to fly.

          Aother whole subset flocked to FPV quadcopters, which were even more transportable and cheaper to fly and fit in a backpack. You can literally “take your plane” anywhere in the world in your backpack… on a motorcycle, in a Eurail train car… get off someplace scenic, and within minutes be up in the air a mile away taking all the breathless scenery in. No gas, no hanger fees, no $30K airplane, no rules, no pilots license, no oil seals dripping, no engines out and off field landings. Girls could fly, guys could, kids could fly, anybody could fly. If you had a few hundred bucks invested, that’s all you needed to go “up”!

          When you consider flying, ask yourself, why do I want to fly? I did. Do I want to go anywhere? No. I have a car for that, and it’s cheaper to use a car. Do I necessarily need to have my body up there to enjoy it? Again, no. In fact, as low and slow and fast and furious as I like to fly, it’s probably better that I not be in the vehicle. Do I really need to have a big airplane to overcompensate for something and impress people? No, not really again. I mostly want to fly alone.

          So why do I want to fly? To get out and see the world more. To get up there. In those gorgeous skies, and be able to look down from up there, and fly around, and have fun. To see my planet earth. All that stuff, you can now do cheaper, safer, faster, easier… with a quadcopter. Having a big huge private plane to do so… well… it’s obsolete.

          I know, I have 3 airplane projects in my shop. What am I suppose to do with them? They’re 20’x20′. I got engines, I got props, I got BRS… what I don’t have is the time to fix them, restore them, trailer them, cart them around, risk my neck, and do all that nasty labor and lug and tug… I just don’t have that in me much any more. I just want to fly. Have you ever tried to put on a removable parasol wing on a plane all by yourself. I have, it’s a total PITA, you feel like a tiny ant carrying a huge leaf around.

          If you’re totally oblivious about FPV quadcopters and the massive golden age (think ultralights) that happened all over again just a few years ago in aviation, visit my research page on them: http://fpv.air-war.org

          All that being said, if you’re cleaning out the hanger, or need someone in your will to leave your grass strip to, or want to tear down an old T-hanger, my email address is always open. 🙂 Who knows, maybe I’ll finish these 3 planes of mine…