|Katie & Sarah with Women in Aviation volunteer studying sectional chart.|
I raised two sons, so learning to groove with my granddaughter Katie has been a challenge, but we've become buds. We have things in common. I supply her with horse books — a love she and my 10-year-old-spirit share. I also supply her with books about Amelia Earhart, my first aviation heroine. Accomplished women role models are so important. Katie’s into softball. So was I. We play catch in the backyard. She’s got a pretty good arm.
In first grade she needed to do a report on a famous Black person for Black History Month. “How about Bessie Coleman?” I asked, ”first Black American — man or woman — to earn a pilot’s license.” She liked the idea. I bought her Reeve Lindbergh’s book (yes, Charles’ daughter) about Bessie. After reading Nobody Owns the Sky, with some adult help, Katie was ready. Wearing the pink flight suit I had bought for her at a Women in Aviation conference, a borrowed flying helmet and goggles, Katie headed for school with Brave Bessie in her head, her heart and her hand.
This year, for her fourth grade class’s celebration of Women’s History Month, she chose Nancy Love, Her source: Gramma’s biography — Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of WWII. Then, on Friday March 15, she joined me at Opryland in Nashville for her first Women in Aviation Conference.
My military fly girl buddy Air Force A-10 pilot Col. Jill Long spoke to the 50 girls ages 10 to 17 attending, their pilot moms, grandmoms and aunts. Her message: “Never give up.” Katie ate it up.
Next we took in several specially designed activities. Using the Air Traffic Control simulator, Katie learned how to bring two airplanes, flying in crowded airspace, in for safe landings. She was pretty good at it. The conference is about the many careers in aviation.
She flew a Cessna 172 simulator; made a bracelet out of aviation wire and several paper airplanes. But what really caught her attention was learning to read a sectional chart. That’s what pilots use instead of maps. With some help from a volunteer, she answered all the questions on the quiz and had fun doing it.
The final activity took place on the conference floor. Find and interview several types of pilots. Katie aced it! At the Women Military Aviators booth, between retired AF pilots, now airline pilots Peg Carnahan and Barb Garwood, and retired Coast Guard Commander and helicopter pilot Claudia McKnight, she got every question answered.
My son says she’s already talking about coming to next year's Women in Aviation Conference.