Lindsay Kitson wins the 2013 First to Solo Challenge

Lindsay Kitson wins the 2013 First to Solo Challenge
(left to right) First-to-Solo Challenge Winner, Lindsay, and her instructor, Sandra
(left to right) First-to-Solo Challenge Winner, Lindsay, and her instructor, Sandra

During the 2013 Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week – March 4 to 10 2013 – that attracted more than 17,000 girls and women to air and space facilities across four continents, pilots flew balloons, ultra-lights, airplanes, seaplanes, and helicopters to introduce 5,316 girls and women to the magic of flight in a small aircraft with the hope to spark many vocations.

More than 77% of the girls and women attending said that they would consider undertaking an activity in aviation for pleasure or for a career as a result of their experience.

To encourage them to take the next step, the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide holds an annual First-to-Solo Challenge to reward the first eligible girl or woman that solos with an awesome prize.

The 2013 prize package worth more than $700 includes a Sennheiser S1 Passive headset, equipment needed for the cross-country phase of training, gold plated pilot wings, and Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week gear such as the official all-season jacket and the official backpack.

St Andrews Airport located in the greater Winnipeg area, Manitoba, Canada, won the 2013 ‘Most Female Pilot Friendly Airport Worldwide’ title when the aviation community rallied around event organizer, Jill Oakes, to introduce 680 girls and women to flying during the week. Among the lucky first time flyers was Lindsay Kitson.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of flight, but never imagined I could actually do it myself,” said Kitson in the form required to become eligible for the First-to-Solo Challenge. “I realized that the only reason I had never tried was because I was afraid people would laugh at me for wanting to. And once I realized that, then I couldn’t not try.”

At the time, Kitson was planning on starting flight lessons at the beginning of April. Instead, she began flying lessons at Harv’s Air, one of the iWOAW Certified Women Friendly Training centers, just two days after her first flight.

On April 17 2013, Sandra Proulx, an experienced Harv’s Air Class 1 flight instructor, knew that Kitson was ready to fly the Cessna 152 alone. So, she stepped out of the airplane to watch Kitson fly and land the airplane on her own perfectly.

“I’ve always loved teaching, and sharing my love of flying with others (it) is why I’m still instructing 9 years later,” said Proulx. “Lindsay has been very focused in getting her flight training done. She always comes prepared for her lessons and is very active in her learning. We are working at basically a full time schedule. I anticipate that if things continue, we should have her private pilot flight test completed by the end of the month.”

“We congratulate Lindsay Kitson, Sandra Proulx, Harv’s Air and the entire St Andrews Airport Community for this amazing success,” says Mireille Goyer, President of the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide. “While many believe that a never-ending string of scholarship offerings will foster aviation vocations, we, at the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide, are demonstrating that vocations are born from passion instead. It is our true privilege to reward passionate individuals with a can-do attitude with the many prizes that our member-partners and friends make available annually to participants of Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week.”

Aviation records fall during Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week 2013

Astronaut Pam Melroy celebrate 50 years of women in space during Women Of Aviation Week

From March 4 to March 10 2013, over 2,100 volunteers across four continents – Africa, Asia, America, and Europe – introduced more than 17,000 girls and women to the opportunities available in the air and space industry as part of the Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week celebration, held annually during the week of March 8, anniversary date of the first female pilot license worldwide.

Fly It Forward® event 'Girls Fly Too' in Yellowknife
Helicopter pilot, Mary Ellen, gives a preflight briefing

Studies have demonstrated that a key barrier to women’s participation in the technical fields of the air and space industry – approximately 12% overall; 5% for pilots – is the lack of awareness of the opportunities available to them. Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week aims to foster diversity in aviation by celebrating history, raising awareness, and sparking vocations among the female population.

Nothing can spark aviation vocations like experiencing the magic and sensations of flight in a small aircraft. Many of 74 events included an invitation for girls and women to try flight in a small aircraft.

Fly It Forward® flight in Collingwood
A first flight changes perspectives

333 pilots flew 109 types of aircraft for more than 1,500 hours – enough hours to fly 12 times around the globe in a small aircraft – in order to introduce 5,316 girls and women to flying. For reference, the largest female airline pilot rated population resides in the United States and totaled 5,818 in 2012.

Friendly competitions held as part of the Fly-It-Forward® Challenge reward aviation enthusiasts that excel at enticing their local female population to discover the air and space industry.

The most coveted title, ‘Most Female Pilot Friendly Airport Worldwide’, is awarded annually to the airport community that offers and documents the most female first flight experiences in approved aircraft throughout the week.

In 2012, more than 400 flights allowed Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, Canada, to win the title. The top three contenders in 2013 orchestrated more than 500 flights each.

Fly It Forward® flight St Andrews, MB, Canada
Fun in St Andrews, MB, Canada

Led by event organizer, Jill Oakes, the St Andrews Airport Community in the greater Winnipeg area, Manitoba, Canada, wins the ‘2013 Most Female Pilot Friendly Airport Worldwide’ title with a whopping 680 documented introductory flights in approved aircraft.

80 local businesses and associations supported the event that offered far more than just flights to the close to 3,000 attendees. Prominent Women Of Aviation were on hand to inspire and answer questions, instructors operating 4 simulators gave hands-on experience to the girls and women, local flight schools and associations informed attendees about the next steps, and potential employers presented all the options available.

Oakes won the $1,000 training prize awarded to the organizer responsible for the event yielding the most effectiveness and outreach overall. Number of flights, number of volunteers, number of women who take the next step and amount of press coverage are a few of the criteria to win the prize.

“The end result is about 40 gals signed up for ground school,” said Oakes.

Kirsten Brazier organized the 'Girls Fly Too' Fly It Forward event
Kirsten Brazier returning after one of her many flights

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, is the first runner up in the category with 634 flights and Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, the second runner up with 517 flights. Frederick, Maryland, USA, retains its honorary title of ‘Most Female Pilot Friendly Airport in the USA’ with 342 flights.

Female pilot friendly regions stood up as well. The province of Ontario in Canada was responsible for more than 1,400 flights; Washington State totaled more than 400 flights between events in Seattle and Twisp.

Acknowledging that creating excitement is only the first step to increasing diversity in aviation, the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide created a new title in 2013: ‘Most Female Pilot Friendly Training Center Worldwide’. This title is awarded to the training center that fosters the most female introductory flights during the week.

Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, based at the Kitchener-Waterloo airport in Ontario, Canada, won the world title with 517 flights. The first runner up is Calhoun Air Center based in Victoria, Texas, USA. Rounding out the top three is Rockcliffe Flying Club in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Astronaut Pam Melroy at the Frederick Fly It Forward® event
Astronaut Pam Melroy and an astronaut-to-be

“Engaged individuals at all levels is what has made the Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week initiative the largest female outreach aviation program ever created,” says Mireille Goyer, founder of the initiative and President of the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide.

While the average number of introductory flights per pilot was 15, one third of the pilots went beyond the average. The ‘Most Dedicated Female Pilot Worldwide’ and the ‘Most Supportive Male Pilot Worldwide’ titles salute the most prolific pilots.

Bush pilot, Kirsten Brazier, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, initiated 180 girls and women to flying to earn the ‘2013 Most Dedicated Female Pilot Worldwide’ title for the second year in a row. First and second runners up were respectively, Megan Tyler, Northwest Territories, Canada, and Dianna Stanger, Port Lavaca, Texas, USA.

To win the ‘Most Supportive Male Pilot Worldwide’ title, Frank Roberts of St Andrews, Manitoba, Canada, flew 302 girls and women. Geoff Furniss and Glen Sibbeston, both from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, took the first and second runner up positions.

Many prizes offered by the partners and friends of the Institute for Women Of Aviation Worldwide were distributed to pilots, volunteers, female first time flyers, and contest winners.

New records were set in all categories and constitute the new reference numbers to win a title during the 4th annual Women Of Aviation Worldwide to be held from March 3 to March 9, 2014.

On September 9, 1913, Pyotr Nikolayevich Nesterov was the first pilot to perform an aerobatic maneuver, the loop. For this he was disciplined with ten days of close arrest, ostensibly “for risking government property”. A few months later in May 1914, Lidia Zvereva, the first Russian woman to earn a pilot license, became the first female aerobatic pilot worldwide when she performed a loop in a Morane airplane. To honor all female aerobatic pilots, the week’s 2014 theme will be: 100 years of female aerobatic pilots.