By ANN Correspondent Aleta Vinas
New members of Women in
Aviation International (WAI) were treated to a Coffee Social on the
opening day of the conference in Nashville, TN.
Dr. Peggy Chabrian, President and Founder of WAR, spoke to the
new members. Her request was clear: "You can't leave until you meet
someone new." Chabrian also jokingly lamented the room setup, as
she had meant for no tables, with few seats, so folks would move
around and not sit with friends.
The atmosphere at WAI is certainly filled with friendship and
camaraderie, so the new members stood up at Chabrian's command and
began to mingle.
Several "newbies" spoke with me about their impressions of the
conference so far and their aspirations. "Wow," "great" and
unbelievable" were but a few of the well-used and well-deserved
adjectives describing the reactions to the conference and WAI.
Modina Williams works at Boeing in St. Louis, MO. She's an
engineer for product support for sustainment data systems. Her
manager mentioned WAI as a "wonderful opportunity." Williams is
enjoying the "networking and seeing how powerful women are."
Williams is "open to any opportunity" that may come her way at the
A co-worker at Atlantic Southeast Airlines recommended that
Josephine Richard join WAI. Richard is looking forward to "meeting
people and seeing the astronaut (Eileen Collins)." Richard,
currently a ramp agent for Atlantic Southeast, aspires to fly
helicopters in medical situations.
Anni Brogan met Gerri Schultz, Chapter Relations Manager for
WAI, at the AOPA convention last November in Tampa. After thinking
about it, Brogan joined WAI.
"I'm blown away by the number of people that are here," said
Brogan, Vice President and flight test director for Micro
Aerodynamics, a general aviation company that certifies vortex
generators. She is also a pilot, and owns a Cessna 172.
Michelle Lipe works at Boeing in product support in the
missile/weapons section. Of the WAI conference, Lipe says, "it's
fantastic." She's worked at Boeing for more than 20 years on
the business side, and has recently switched to the technical side.
Lipe added she is looking forward to "learn more about technically,
what do pilots do, what do maintenance people do. It's a new side
of aerospace that I'm getting to see." Lipe hopes to manage
the instructors that train pilots.
"It's interesting" being one of the few guys at the conference,
said attendee Larry Williams. He was there with five ladies from
Texas Southern University in Houston, TX. Advisor Tasha Hall had
recommended to each that they check out WAI. Williams is seeking an
airline pilot position once he graduates. He's particularly looking
forward to Wally Funk's talk, as he met her at an NIFA competition
and wants to see her again.
"She's a wild woman," says Williams.
Tracy Sibbaluca from Texas Southern University says, "it's an
experience, you get to meet all these different women pilots that
you didn't know existed." Sibbaluca seeks to be a corporate
pilot with maintenance as a back up. She plans to start her flight
training after returning to Houston from the conference.
Felicia Edwards, also with the TSU group is enrolled in Aviation
Management. She "looks forward to everything they have planned for
us." Edwards has a background as an aircraft electrician
– she would like to do aerospace work for Halliburton.
Ashley Casey from TSU is a single parent; she is hoping to meet
other single parents "to get a feel for how it is in the
industry." She is "excited to be here." Her can't-miss
seminar is the FAA Aviation Safety session. Casey feels she has met
up with a bit of prejudice in aviation. She had applied to be a jet
fueler, and though she was qualified, she never heard back from the
"I have a feeling they didn't think I could do it," Casey
Latissha Clark in Airway Science and Aviation Management at TSU
had attended a couple of WAI meetings in Houston before joining.
Her goal is commercial or corporate pilot, though she wouldn't mind
starting out in airline operations. Her short-term plan is to enjoy
"I'm excited about going to the workshops. I'm ready," Clark
said. She too, is looking forward to Wally Funk's talk and the
Airport Operations panel.
At WAI 2006, aviation is the common goal... meeting mentors and
making new friends along the way is just one of the "perks."