March 8 was an historically important day for women pilots worldwide, long before the United Nations designated March 8 as International’s Women Day in 1975.
It was on that very day, 65 years earlier, that Raymonde de Laroche earned the world’s first female pilot license. Four more women would earn a pilot license before the end of 1910. De Laroche’s achievement is one of the rare fully documented and unquestionable aviation firsts for women pilots on a global scale.
Today, the subject of women and aviation, and more particularly their striking absence 110 years after the first women opened the doors of the industry for all others to follow, has made it to the forefront of the industry. It was not always that way.
When Mireille Goyer, a female airline-rated pilot, was looking for upcoming celebrations of the momentous female pilot milestone in late 2019, she found none.
10 years ago, there were no global outreach initiatives to introduce women and girls to aviation and space opportunities, there were no special programs to specifically celebrate all women’s contributions to the industry, and women were virtually absent in industry publications.
In other words, women were not on the aviation radar - even on March 8th.
Goyer decided to do something about that. She launched the Fly It Forward® Challenge using her own money to fund prizes and awards. The idea was to remember the legacy and to celebrate the achievement of women by fulfilling the vision of the female pioneers – to see more women enjoy and contribute to the industry.
The call to action together with the incentives aimed to encourage aviation enthusiasts, professionals, and organizations to invite girls of all ages to discover the multiple facets of the industry.
More than 1,600 women and girls in 36 countries responded to the 2010 invitation with huge smiles and caught the attention of an industry that once presumed and dismissed women as “not interested in aviation”.
As we are preparing to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week (WOAW) and its Fly It Forward® Challenge in 2020, the initiative has not only already made it possible for more than 350,000 women and girls to discover aviation around the world, including in Turkey since 2015, it has also admirably inspired an industry to reflect and act.
Over the past few years, Turkey has taken a leadership role in organizing most of the events across the country during the Week. Individuals such as Can Erel and corporate organizers such as TEI and THK have proudly won Fly It Forward® Awards.
Turkish girls of all ages have visited aerospace factories, control towers, museums, training centers, and airports, and have met with accomplished women currently working in the industry, they’ve flown in various aircraft and simulators, and launched thousands of Pink Paper Planes in a symbolic gesture to raise awareness.
To close the gender gap and to celebrate the 110th anniversary of the world’s first female pilot in a meaningful manner, let’s introduce women and girls by a multiple of tenfold at each Turkish aviation or space location from March 2 to 8, 2020. We look forward to it.
Learn more at www.WomenOfAviationWeek.org