The Lasting Legacy and Promising Future of Women in Aviation and Aerospace

There is no mistaking the increasingly influential role that women are now playing in the aviation and aerospace industries. In the last ten years, many organizations have formed to encourage young women to pursue careers in aeronautics, commercial and military arenas. This support has meant women are more prevalent and successful in these fields than ever before.

Amelia Earhart is a household name, but there were many other women that paved the path for the young, modern girl to pilot a plane or become a researcher. When the US entered World War II, women took to the factories so that the men could fight. And since that time, women have actively participated in aviation, both on the ground and in the air.

More recently, Tamara Jernigan successfully completed three NASA missions in the late 80s and early 90s. Patricia Cowlings pioneered a biofeedback technique that helped astronauts combat space sickness in the 1980s. In 1991, Patty Wagstaff was the first woman to win the title of US National Aerobatic Champion, a title she defended in the two subsequent years.

These women bravely stepped into new territory and presented a model to a generation of women who had not previously envisioned such careers as a possibility. Dianna Stanger won the women’s Air Race Classic twice between 2010 and 2013, and last year, four out of eight of NASA’s astronaut recruits were women.

Now, organizations like Women of Aviation, the Ninety-Nines Inc. (founded in 1929 with Amelia Earhart as its first president) and Women in Aviation International have made great strides in opening doors for young women to become mathematicians, engineers, pilots and astronauts.

Aviation has come a long way from that first, tentative Wright Brothers flight and part of the reason is the under-recognized women who made startling contributions to the field. Perhaps the mark of a truly modern era is the acknowledgement that these industries only stand to prosper further with the presence of determined, skilled, educated women.

The Patriots Jet Team Foundation is committed to advancing women in the sciences by developing innovative educational programs that foster interest in technology. The all-volunteer team contributes time toward hands-on curriculum that encourages exploration of science, math and engineering, including mentorship from the pilots themselves.

And since air show season is upon us, the PJT would like to express its support of all the enthusiastic and hard working women involved in the exciting upcoming airshows like wingwalker Carol Pilon and our crew members, Marie, Megan and Stephanie.   The team is tremendously grateful for your spirit and presence.

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