Say the words “women in aviation” and, most likely, the first name that comes to mind is Amelia Earhart.
The truth is, women were involved in flight – be it manufacturing airplanes or flying them – long before Earhart’s fateful trip across the Pacific Ocean in 1937. There were pioneers like Raymonde de la Roche, the first woman in the world to receive a pilot’s license, and Harriet Quimby, an American who became the first woman to fly across the English Channel in 1912.
As part of this year’s Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, Quimby and de la Roche will be just two of the many female pilots who are remembered and honored.
Women of Aviation Worldwide Week takes place around the world with events happening between March 7 and 13. Locally, Florida Atlantic University instructor, Barbara Ganson, and Parkway Middle School of the Arts teacher, Virginia Knudsen, will head up an event designed to help get the group into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Ganson will present to two of Knudsen’s classes at the school in Lauderhill, telling them about the contributions of women to the field of aviation and hoping to engage them enough to spark a longtime interest in the field.
“We hope to increase the awareness of the opportunities that are available for women and men in aviation,” Ganson said. “There are opportunities in not only piloting, but air traffic control, dispatch, flight attendants, avionics and other aspects of aviation. They are good paying jobs and Florida is an important center of aeroflight industries.”
Opening eyes to the world of aviation is something Ganson is very familiar with.
She has taught at FAU for 21 years, and is currently an instructor in aviation history. She keeps her 1965 Cessna 172 at Signature Flight Support in Boca Raton and uses it to teach students how to do preflight inspections.
This is the sixth Women of Aviation Worldwide Week in which Ganson has participated. Past endeavors have included a 2012 trip across the English Channel to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Quimby’s voyage. For that trip Ganson wore a replica of Quimby’s plum-colored satin flying outfit, which she designed from historical pictures.
The next year, Ganson put together a trip to Kennedy Space Center in which 14 pilots flew 116 women and girls, free of charge, over Cape Canaveral. Last year was a celebration of 100 years of women in military aviation, though the flight part of that event was cancelled because of a low cloud ceiling.
This year, weather won’t be a factor as Ganson and Knudsen will teach the students how to make paper airplanes and have them write messages inside. Between noon and 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday those pink paper airplanes will all launch as part of a worldwide paper airplane launch that should land the group in the Guinness Book of World Records.
“I’m not sure what those messages will say. It’s up to the students,” Ganson said. “I hope they say something about Harriet Quimby because she was such an interesting individual. I hope there are messages celebrating her and other women fliers like Raymonde de la Roche. I’m not sure what they’ll say but it will be interesting to see what they come up with.”