LOVELAND — When Ronnie Bogart looked at 5-year-old Lillian Kiriakos on Wednesday morning at the Northern Colorado Regional Airport, she saw a younger version of herself.
Lillian, with no history of aviation in her family, wants to be a helicopter pilot when she grows up “because it seems like fun.”
So did Bogart when she was that age, but she didn’t have any way to channel her dream. She didn’t become a pilot until she was in her 40s. Now Bogart, a helicopter instructor at the Northern Colorado Regional Airport, hopes Lillian and girls like her won’t have to wait to get into a profession that’s only 6 percent female. That’s why Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is so close to Bogart’s heart.
“Moments like that,” she said, “we want to nurture.”
Every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this week, 28 local pilots are volunteering their time and fuel to take women of all ages up in their helicopters, Cessnas and cubs to cultivate that passion. Bogart said the airport had 1,221 participants last year and is aiming for 1,900 this year.
“To be able to do it with a program like this is real rewarding,” said Mel Callen, one of the volunteer pilots.
Lillian though, got to go up in one of the helicopters she wants to fly when she grows up. Her favorite part was when they did a “roller coaster,” which is exactly what it sounds like: straight down, then back up, then down again. They hovered and flew backwards.
Lillian’s mom said she didn’t know where her daughter’s passion came from, but when she heard about the event she had to bring Lillian.
“Back then,” Bogart said about her childhood, “they didn’t have things like this. Otherwise, I might not have waited till I was 42 to fly.”