In 1784 Elisabeth Thible became the first woman to fly – in a hot air balloon. It would take more than 125 years before Harriet Quimby would earn the distinction of becoming the first American woman licensed pilot on August 11, 1911, receiving flight license number 37 from the Aero Club of America. In 1912, Quimby became the first woman to pilot her own aircraft across the English Channel – and the rest is history when it comes to women in aviation
Surprisingly, women pilots represent only 6% of the total pilot population. Since 2013, Women Can Fly, a newly created volunteer organization, has taken up the challenge of improving that statistic by making a national appeal, state by state, to all future female pilots. By providing women of all ages with in-depth information and a hands-on flight experience onboard a general aviation aircraft, Women Can Fly aims to encourage and inspire women to fly recreationally, become a private pilot, or pursue a career in aviation.
This summer, PGI’s President Al Buford, a licensed private pilot for 5 years with over 700 hours of flight time and an instrument rating volunteered his Cessna 182 airplane to fly multiple groups of daughters and their mothers, some of whom experienced the thrill of flying for the first time. More than 200 mothers and their daughters participated at this year’s event, which took place on June 24 at the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport, located in Midland, Virginia. In addition to the more than 30 volunteer pilots and planes, representatives from airlines, military business and recreation aviation also participated at the event, giving attendees a 360 view of what it means to fly.
This is not the first time Al has volunteered his piloting skills and aircraft to Women Can Fly, having worked with the organization and program participants in 2015 and 2016. Like all pilots, he’s passionate about flying and believes that way to increase the number of women in aviation is to introduce the idea of flying at an early age. Volunteering with Women Can Fly is a perfect way to share his enthusiasm for aviation and inspire others to realize their dream of flying.