We had a great time connecting with new members and reconnecting with old friends at the annual WAI conference March 10-12 in Nashville, TN. This was one of our most successful conferences and we are very happy to welcome 56 new (and some long lost) members to WMA. As membership grows, so does our ability to provide scholarships and keep the legacy and camaraderie of women military aviators alive. It was great to see everyone who came by the booth, and we were especially glad to bring a few students into our fold (with a free one-year membership). Also, thanks to everyone who bought a raffle ticket at the Flight Suit Social, we raised $685! The money will be split between our scholarship fund and the WMA TWU archive endowment fund. Mark your calendar now for next March in Orlando, FL, we hope to see you there! Flight suit photo by: John Riedel
by Barbara Garwood
The Women In Aviation International Conference is fast approaching in Nashville! One of the educational sessions is sponsored by Woman Military Aviators and will feature a panel of five women pilots who have served in combat. The panel will be moderated by Barbara Garwood (Captain American Airlines, Retired) and Peggy Carnahan (Captain, NetJets) both former USAF pilots.
One member of the panel is Lt. Col. (USMC) Alison “Rocky” Thompson, a 1994 graduate of the US Naval Academy, who became a Naval Aviator in the CH-53E helicopter in 1997. Her first unit was HMH-464 (Marine Heavy Helicopter) and she became an Air Mission Commander, Functional Check Pilot and Weapons and Tactics Instructor. In 2000, she deployed with her unit to Vieques Island, Puerto Rico, joining a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
Two of her deployments later were with the HMM-365 (Marine Medium Helicopter unit) and the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit. These missions included humanitarian operations in Albania, earthquake relief in Turkey, and the combat entry force into Kosovo.
In the photo above, Lt. Col. Alison Thompson is standing beside a CH-53E Super Stallion. The day after 9-11, then Captain Thompson was tasked to fly to New York City in the CH-53E to provide support where needed in the aftermath of the Towers’ destruction. As all aircraft in the US were grounded after the attack, that mission was cancelled.
But just a few months later, Thompson was now piloting the CH-53E in Afghanistan, deploying the Marines who took Camp Rhino and Kandahar Air Field, and then invaded the Tora Bora mountains. This woman aviator has seen combat and will share some of her experiences with the audience.
Lt. Col. Thompson is one of the first women to pilot a Marine aircraft and the first woman to command a Marine squadron in combat. Her many awards include a Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service Medal (3 awards), Individual Air Medal and Strike/Flight with number 10, Navy Commendation Medal (2 awards), Navy Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
The photo above is Thompson and her officers at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan in 2012.
Conde Nast Traveler, Written by Sebastian Modak March 08, 2016
In celebration of International Women's Day, Air India Flight 173 took off on Sunday from Delhi to San Francisco, with an all-female crew, making it the longest flight staffed entirely by women in history.
From the ground staff overseeing the boarding process, to the four people operating the controls, an Air India Boeing 777-LR that took off from Delhi on Sunday was entirely staffed by women. Seventeen hours later it landed in San Francisco, and—following some well-deserved rest—the same crew will make the return flight on Tuesday, International Women's Day.
The airline will be operating 20 all-women crewed flights domestically and internationally to celebrate International Women's Day, but this particular trek is noteworthy for its length: The 14,500-kilometer (9,000-mile) route, led by Captain Kshamta Bajpayee and Captain Shubhangi Singh, makes it the longest flight ever operated by an entirely female crew.
"This year for the first time, on the world's longest non-stop flight, entire flight operations from cockpit crew to cabin crew, check-in staff, doctor, customer care staff, ATC (air traffic control) and the entire ground-handling...were handled by women," Air India said in a release.
This continues a tradition that started when Air India was the first carrier to ever operate a flight with an all-women crew on a domestic flight from Calcutta to Silchar in 1985.
Other airlines have garnered similar headlines in the past, including Air Zimbabwe and Ethiopian Airlines, which operated all-women flights from Harare to Victoria Falls and Addis Ababa to Bangkok, respectively, and an Atlantic Southeast Airlines flight between Atlanta and Nashville in 2009, which was flown by the first all-female African-American crew.
As a celebration of International Women's Day, these flights mark important milestones for women in aviation. But, the fact that these occasions still make headlines is also a reminder of how much work there is to do, before there is even a semblance of equal gender representation in the profession.
According to FAA data, just 6 percent of commercial pilots in the United States are women, a number that has only increased by about 2 percentage points, since 1998. Organizations such as Women in Aviation International are trying to correct the discrepancy through flight school scholarships, educational outreach, and awareness programs, and airlines like JetBlue and British Airways have launched training programs that aim to increase diversity in the cockpit. While it is still all-too-rare to hear "This is your captain speaking," coming through the PA in a woman's voice, this Air India flight is an important step forward for the male-dominated aviation industry.