NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Less than 10 percent of pilots are women according to a report last year from the Federal Aviation Administration, but with an industry shortage, could this be the time for change?
Currently, there are more than 30 women enrolled in the Northampton Airport flight school and while are some are doing this for fun, others are setting themselves up for a lifelong career.
“There was a deep sense of wonder like, ‘Wow. I’m in the sky. I’m flying,’ said Mary Wigmore, a student pilot.
At Northampton Airport you’ll find women in every corner, whether they’re fixing up the planes or teaching you how to take off. Anna Ohlweiler is a flight instructor but her passion wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, she used to be afraid of it. Now, she’s teaching others how to face it head on.
“I’m like, ‘Hey I want to try it,’ and it took me five years to actually try it and then I tried in summer 2020 and I’ve never stopped since then,” said Ohweiler.
One of the barriers of entering the industry is cost. But one of the women learning how to fly there just got a scholarship and she’s only 16. She’s planning to get her pilot’s license a few months after she gets her driver’s license.
“I want to continue with it and I think this will be a really cool opportunity to have,” said Brook Wolcott, who won the scholarship. “I hope to go to the Air Force and fly there, I think that would be super cool.”
Sage Mylek, 21, hopes to fly planes for a domestic airline like Southwest. When it comes to getting more women in the industry, she said it starts with seeing more representation in general, “Just getting on a plane, generally it’s a man standing there and he’s greeting you but I think the more that we get women into general aviation, the more we’ll get into the airlines.”
The biggest barrier identified in the report is the culture, something Hillary Carlson, an Aviation Mechanic at Northampton Airport, said she’s noticed in the past, “You can hear something that you don’t want to hear sometimes and it can be a little discouraging. You just have to ignore it, I guess, but I think women should get into it even though it’s tough.”