One airline recently flew 120 girls aged 12-18 from Salt Lake City to NASA in Houston in celebration of International Girls in Aviation Day. The aim of Delta's fifth-annual "Women Inspiring our Next Generation" flight was to help close the gender gap in aviation.
Wing Flight 2019 was planned, orchestrated and staffed exclusively by women, including the pilots flying the plane, ramp agents working on the ground, gate agents boarding the flight and the women in the tower guiding the aircraft on its way out. On the ground in Houston, the girls experienced the worlds of flight and human space exploration. They toured NASA's Mission Control Center, Building 9, Johnson Space Center and Space Center Houston, and got to know mentors from other male-dominated aviation workgroups, including a female technician from Delta's Technical Operations team. They also had lunch with Jeanette Epps, NASA astronaut and aerospace engineer.
Delta's Wing Flight was instigated in 2015 as an effort to diversify a male-dominated industry and over 600 female students have taken to the skies through the program. "We know representation matters," says Beth Poole, general manager - pilot development. "At Delta, we believe you have to see it to be it. We're taking ownership to improve gender diversity by exposing girls at a young age and providing a pipeline so that ten years from now, they will be the pilots in the Delta cockpit inspiring generations of women who follow."
Delta is on par with the aviation industry with approximately 5% pilots who are women. In the past four years, 7.4% of its new hire pilots have been women. It has also partnered with schools that have STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or aviation programs to provide clear paths for interested future female aviators.