Delta's WING program aims to encourage more girls to consider careers in aviation; only 6% of commercial pilots currently are women.
A very special flight designed to inspire future women in aviation flew 120 girls to NASA in celebration of International Girls in Aviation Day! Delta's fifth annual Women Inspiring our Next Generation, or WING, flight was planned and orchestrated by an all-female crew, and even the ramp agents, boarding agents, and operators in the control tower were women. The company hopes that it can help "diversify a male-dominated industry" by encouraging teen girls to consider careers in aviation fields. "We know representation matters. At Delta, we believe you have to see it to be it," says Beth Poole, Delta's general manager of pilot development. "We're taking ownership to improve gender diversity by exposing girls at a young age and providing a pipeline so that 10 years from now, they will be the pilots in the Delta cockpit inspiring generations of women who follow."
The WING flights were started in 2015 as part of an effort to boost the number of female pilots. Federal Aviation Administration data from 2018 shows that, while the number of women pilots has increased since they started collecting data in 2004, they still make up only 7% of all licensed pilots and 6.4 % of commercial pilots. "We thought what better way [to promote the field] than to put them on an airplane, take them somewhere, and introduce them to the world itself," explains Poole. In its first five years, over 600 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 have participated in the program.
This year's flight included 120 girls selected from Salt Lake City schools that have STEM or aviation programs. They flew from Salt Lake City to Houston, where they toured NASA's Mission Control Center and the Johnson Space Center. They also had the opportunity to have lunch with Jeanette Epps, a NASA astronaut and aerospace engineer, who passed on some advice about perseverance to the would-be aviators and astronauts. "Things don't happen overnight," she told the students, "It's all consistency over time and making sure you do good work — and also, making sure that you do something that you really love."
The unique experience made an impact on the girls. "I never would have thought I would have had this experience," marveled 16-year-old Karyanna. "It's such an exciting time to be in STEM. There's so much left for us to discover." And with Delta's advocacy for women in aviation — including 100% pay parity for frontline employees and "Best Workplace for Women" awards from Great Place To Work and Fortune — they're realizing that careers in the skies are more welcoming than they thought. "It didn't seem realistic to go after a career in aviation," said 17-year-old Katelyn, "but today I realized, 'Hey, I can do this too.'"
Inspiring Books About female Pilots
Young Amelia Earhart dreamed of flying like a bird, so as an adult, she decided to learn how to fly a plane! Female pilots were few and far between, but Amelia wanted to prove that women could fly just as well as men. First, she set a female world record by flying at 14,000 feet; then, she flew across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; and finally, she decided to try flying all around the whole world. This board book from the Little People, BIG DREAMS series will inspire and empower the littlest readers.
Violet Van Winkle could fix almost anything in her house by the time she was two. By eight, she's building incredible flying machines, even though the kids at school tease her for her eccentric creations. She decides to earn their respect by winning the blue ribbon at the Air Show, but on her way to the show, Violet sees a Boy Scout troop in trouble and has to decide which is more important: showing off her creation for applause, or using it to do the right thing. Kids who dream of careers as pilots or aeronautics engineers will cheer as Violet shows the world the joy of flight!
Ruth Law set off on the first non-stop Chicago to New York City flight on November 19, 1916... a flight the experts thought was doomed. Exposed to the wind and cold in the seat of her little biplane — and then facing another challenge when her engine ran out of fuel — Law managed to glide safely into Hornell, New York, short of her goal but still setting a new record for cross-country flight distance. And despite the stop, she was greeted by thrilled crowds after refueling and finishing her trip to New York City. This exciting and action-packed story will leave young aviation enthusiasts fascinated, and is sure to inspire any girl who wonders what to do if she doesn't quite go the distance she'd planned.
In April, 1933, Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt found themselves together at a White House dinner party... one which wasn't exactly thrilling. So the two headstrong friends decided to head out for a little excursion: they crept away (still in their evening gowns), commandeered an Eastern Air Transport plane, and set off on a nighttime flight from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore! This lavish picture book, illustrated in the style of a vintage movie, celebrates the joy of adventure and the special relationship between these two historic women.
Bessie Coleman knew she wanted to "find a bigger life" — one where her future didn't involve picking cotton and struggling to get by. When she grew up, she moved to Chicago and heard tales of the first World War from veterans... including stories of women pilots in France. So when no one in America would teach her how to fly, she saved every penny she could and traveled there, where she became the first African American to earn a pilot's license. Coleman would return to America and become a famous stunt pilot, and everywhere she went, she would remind kids, "You can fly high just like me." This evocative picture book biography captures the determination and drive of this aviation pioneer. For another book about Coleman, check out Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Bessie Coleman for ages 7 to 10.
Jerrie Mock's love of aviation began in childhood, and she even attended aeronautical engineering in university, but she then settled into domestic life as a woman of her time was expected to do. However, when her husband jokingly suggested a round-the-world flight, her interest was rekindled, and she started planning a trip that could make her the first woman to fly solo around the world. What began as a lark turned into a race that thrilled people around the world — but then her story was overshadowed by the Vietnam War and largely forgotten. This thrilling telling of Mock's record-setting flight will fascinate young aviation fans. Younger readers will enjoy Aim For The Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith's Race to Complete Amelia Earhart's Quest for ages 5 to 9.
Did you know that Katherine Wright, the Wright Brothers' sister, was involved in the invention of the airplane? It just goes to show that women have been involved since the first days of aviation! In this book from the Women of Action series, teens will learn about her and 25 other aviation pioneers who defied the idea that only men had the physical and mental capacity to fly. Along the way, they set new records and inspired people around the world! Author Karen Bush Gibson draws on primary sources to tell the stories of these women with verve and flair.
In the midst of World War II, Josef Stalin made the Soviet Union the first country in the world that allowed female pilots to fly in combat. Three regiments of women, led by Marina Raskova, took to the skies, including the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, which would be nicknamed the "night witches." But facing the horrors of war and discrimination and pressure on the ground wasn't easy for these pilots, many of whom were still in their teens. Elizabeth Wein, the author of the best-selling historical fiction novel Code Name Verity, sets her sights on non-fiction in this compelling story about these daring pilots and the sisterhood they formed as they changed the world. For two fictional novels about the Night Witches, check out Among the Red Stars and Night Witches: A Novel of World War II, both for ages 13 and up.
In the 1930s, everyone loved air racing, and male pilots were considered daring and courageous heroes — but female pilots were the subject of ridicule; why would people more suited to a home and kitchen even try to take the controls of such a dangerous machine? In this book, Keith O'Brien tells the stories of five women who dared to challenge the entrenched prejudice and prove that women had what it took to fly. Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Amelia Earhart, Ruth Nichols, and Louise Thaden came from drastically different backgrounds, but they all had a dream of flight... and one of them would prove that a woman could do more than just fly: she could win the toughest race of them all.