Two small airplanes stood inside a hangar at Dane County Regional Airport, surrounded by young girls eager for the chance to sit behind the controls Saturday during Madison’s first Girls in Aviation event, which aims to promote interest in aviation careers among girls.
The Four Lakes Chapter of Women in Aviation International hosted the event at Wisconsin Aviation at the airport, where about 40 girls, ages 8 to 11, learned about aeronautics, charted maps and moved a plane’s rudder and flaps as they sat in the cockpit.
The Four Lakes Chapter was founded last year. Other chapters around the world had similar events Saturday to introduce girls to aviation careers and to support girls who may be interested in the field.
Only 7% of pilots are women, according to Federal Aviation Administration data from 2018.
“One of the reasons that number is so low is because girls don’t have role models” who work in aviation, Four Lakes chapter president Sarah Pozdell said.
Some girls are discouraged from becoming pilots. Podzell said that when she was a teen, she was told, “Girls don’t fly planes.” It wasn’t until she was in her 40s that she started taking flying lessons.
Saturday’s event wasn’t just about piloting airplanes. The girls also learned about other jobs relating to aviation, including air traffic control, which 9-year-old Ellie Kramarz said she found most interesting.
“You could see all the different planes and where they’re coming from,” Ellie said.
Some of the girls at the event have never flown in a plane, but those who had were surprised by the difference in the two airplanes displayed in the hangar and the massive commercial jets that took them to their vacation destinations.
“There’s a giant difference,” Ellie said.
Jayce Dreyer, 8, said she’d be interested in learning to fly, even though she’s afraid of heights.
“I want to face my fears,” Jayce said.
Elaina Hamilton, 8, said she’s never been up in the air in an airplane before, but she was interested in learning about them. She said she wants to be a bird scientist, so she might need to fly planes to study them.
Matthew Jensen, who flies planes as a hobby, showed girls around a small airplane, letting them sit inside the cockpit and ask questions about the array of buttons and switches.
“It’s fun putting kids into something like this and seeing them think about (learning to fly),” Jensen said.