In 1970, when Utah pilot Susan Horstman was attending aviation school, she was the only woman in her class, and it was years before she met another female counterpart.
While the gender inequities have improved a bit during the past four decades, today only 16 percent of the people working in the aviation industry are women.
“A lot of people still think it’s a guy’s world,” said Horstman, who spent Saturday promoting the industry to the next generation as part of National Girls Aviation Day.
During the event, young women and their families were able to sit inside small aircraft, tour a flight safety facility and learn more about a variety of jobs in the industry from air traffic control to radio operations.
“It’s all about education for women and helping them get into the industry,” said Brooke Rogers, president of the local chapter of Women in Aviation, the group that sponsored the event at the TacAir hanger near Salt Lake City International Airport.
Katie Moore of North Salt Lake didn’t need convincing. The 12-year-old student at Rowland Hall St. Mark’s has already decided she wants to be a fighter pilot.
“It would be so cool to fly a plane,” said Moore, who has been around planes all her life. Her father, Michael Moore, works at Hill Air Force Base as the deputy director of maintenance and has encouraged his daughter to enter the field where there are many jobs with good salaries.
“We are always looking for more women,” he said. “I think many of them are more detail oriented than some of the guys on my crew.”
Aviation buff Jeff Eastes, of Roy brought his two daughters, Abigail, 12, and Kaitlyn, 9, to the event for similar reasons. “I’m trying to get them into the field,” he said. “It has opportunities for a good career.”
For years, women have played an important role in U.S. aviation. During World War II, they built aircraft — think Rosie the Riveter; and more than 1,000 became trained pilots through the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program, flying the U.S.-built planes all over the world for use in combat.
Utah has its own rich past when it comes to female aviators.
• Alberta Hunt Nicholson, a University of Utah graduate, learned to fly in Salt Lake City and completed a tour in the WASP during World War II.
• Betty Miller, of Bountiful, worked for the Civil Aeronautical Administration in Wendover, and was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean.
• Lisa Berente is a lieutenant colonel in the Utah Air National Guard and is featured in a book about U.S. female military pilots.
• And Horstman ultimately become the first female pilot for a commercial airline (Pan Am) and now is the owner and chief instructor of Utah’s Cornerstone Aviation Flight School.
The field, concluded Horstman, may still be dominated by males, “but it’s the best job in the world,” she said. “You get a front row seat to travel the world.”