PRESCOTT – A group of Arizona Girl Scouts will have a great subject for that “What I Did Over My Summer Vacation” essay when school starts up in the fall: They learned to fly.
Thanks to involvement by “The 99s,” a national group of female pilots, the weeklong camp introduces girls to the basics of aerodynamics, teaches them about things like how air traffic control works and weather’s impact, and then the girls go up in an airplane at the end of the camp.
There are 22 girls ranging from 13 to 18 years old in this year’s camp.
Stacy Howard, a 99s member, said this is the 16th year they’ve held the camp. It also includes some of the traditional camp activities such as archery and making pottery, but the real focus is on flying.
“It’s the only one like it in the whole country,” she said. “They’ll be in the left seat, the pilot’s seat, when they’re flying.”
Although the girls are from the Phoenix area, Howard said Prescott’s aviation community offers a unique opportunity for them.
“Prescott has all these marvelous aviation resources,” she said, ticking off Yavapai College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Guidance Helicopter, and North-Aire flight school at the Prescott Municipal Airport, where the girls met Monday afternoon to learn about aviation weather.
Flight Instructor Rodney Evans showed two of them some online weather tools, and they discussed how you might find out what the weather is like at a destination.
When he began talking about the Prescott forecast and mentioned the clouds were at 25,000 feet, he jumped up and said, “Let’s go outside and see what 25,000 feet looks like.”
The trio went out and looked skyward.
Over the noise of helicopters hovering and small planes taxiing by, he said, “Those are called cirrus clouds. Do you know what they’re made up of?”
“Dirt and water,” one girl answered.
“Exactly,” he said, explaining that, at that altitude, the water was actually in the form of ice crystals.
Evans said he enjoys the challenge of teaching the scouts, and he tries to keep it simple and fun. “If we overwhelm with too much information, they may not be able to focus,” he said. “So we have to keep it fun and teach them what’s pertinent.
“I see these kids and it reminds me of myself when I was a child. I wanted to be a pilot,” he added.
“Women are small in numbers in the aviation industry. I’m not sure why that is,” Howard said. “Only about six percent of pilots are women.”
That’s a number the Discover Aviation Camp aims to change.