Tri-City Aviation Event Introduces Women to Male-Dominated Field of Aviation
March 7, 2015
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  • BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — Young women were given a sneak peek into the world of the male-dominated aviation field during a special event Saturday at Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

    Tri-City Aviation held the Women in Aviation event at the airport and featured seminars, demonstrations, free plane rides and tours.

    “We’re hoping that it will provide women with information about aviation,” said pilot Janice Pelletti, who helped organize the event. “It will allow women — young women in particular — to see that aviation, which is still a male dominated industry, that there are still plenty of opportunities out there. And we encourage them to consider aviation as a possible career.”

    According to the Federal Aviation Administration, of the nearly 600,000 active pilots in the United States, about 6 percent are women. Women account for only 4 percent of the more than 700,000 non-pilot aviation jobs in the United States. These statistics do not count flight attendants.

    “We’re targeting young women and ladies who have never had an aviation experience before,” Pelletti said.

    Pelletti, who has been flying for 40 years, brought her own plane to showcase at the airport.

    “I grew up with aviation,” she said. “Both of my parents were pilots. And I had my first airplane ride when I was 10 days old. I started out in journalism and I ended up wanting to pursue a career in aviation.”

    Another longtime pilot, Beverly Barnett, spoke to groups of people, primarily women, about flight instruction. She’s an instructor at Advanced Flight Training, located at the airport.

    Barnett said flying requires a lot of brain and not a lot of brawn, or physical strength.

    She explained that there are various tests that must be passed to obtain a flying certificate, including knowledge exams, medical exams and actual flying exercises. Pilots must be knowledgeable about safety features, navigation and the weather, Barnett said.

    Dave Dubin, with ParaSearchers, demonstrated how to use a paraplane, which he regularly uses during search-and-rescue missions. A paraplane is basically a motorized parachute.

    Dubin said he’s been involved in the searches of several high-profile missing-person cases, most notably Holly Bobo. He’s recently been contacted regarding a local missing person.

    About 30 people, mostly women, were able to go on small-airplane rides during the event, Pelletti said.

    Zelda Ridgeway and Jordan Harker, both of Kingsport, Tennessee, rode just before noon Saturday. They said they were very excited to fly on a small plane with pilot Chris Johnson. So many people signed up Saturday that IOUs were given to those who didn’t get a chance to fly.

    Tours were also given of the airport’s control tower, which was busy Saturday as Federal Aviation Administration staff monitored everything from commercial jets to private planes. The Tri-Cities Airport tower monitors air traffic below 10,000 feet for all planes in Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and parts of Western North Carolina, which includes multiple smaller airports.