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Pacific Aviation Museum Held Conference To Highlight Women In Aviation


By Eric J. Cutright
 
 

April 19, 2010 - The Pacific Aviation Museum, Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii held its first conference to highlight women in aviation on April 16-18, to examine those that blazed the trail for female aviators. The three day event included enhanced exhibits, an industry career field and speeches given by female aviators for the museum patrons.

"We took a look at the museum and realized that we're often telling stories about the men involved in aviation in the Pacific," said April Emerson, the education coordinator at the museum. "We found that there was very little information available in the museum about the women who participated as well, and that was the inspiration for the conference."

Some of these women that Emerson alludes to were in aviation groups like Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). The group was established during WWII in an attempt to free-up male pilots for combat duty. Missions of the WASP pilots included towing targets for live anti-aircraft practice, transporting cargo and the delivery of aircraft to distant commands.

Another group of female pioneers in aviation were "The Ninety-Nines". "The Ninety-Nines" are a non-profit organization that was first established in 1929 by a group of 99 female aviators whose goals were to provide mutual support and to promote aviation for women. The famous aviator Amelia Earhart was the first president of "The Ninety-Nines" from 1931-1933.

Another topic discussed at the conference involved the road that female African-Americans had to journey on their path to become aviators.

"It all started way back in the 1920's with Bessie Coleman," said Robin Jackson, a docent at the Pacific Aviation Museum. "Back then this country was segregated and Bessie wasn't able to obtain her pilot's license. Bessie had heard that France was training female pilots, so she studied French, went to France, got her pilot's license and came back to the United States. Coleman had a dream of one day opening her own flight school for black aviators," said Jackson. "Unfortunately, Bessie died at the age of 34 while performing in an airshow, leaving the dream unfulfilled.

The event also featured modern-day female aviators as guest speakers in the museum's education room. "We wanted to not only educate people about the role that women played in aviation, but to also give young people, both men and women, the opportunity to meet some of the local aviators to find out how they navigated the path to aviation," said Emerson.

One of those guest speakers was Navy helicopter pilot, Cmdr. Kristen Herr-Garrett, the J2 deputy director of intelligence at Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. "I received a phone call from Ms. April Emerson for me to come down and speak at the Women in Aviation Conference here at the Pacific Aviation Museum,” said Herr-Garrett. "I wasn't really sure myself what this was, but she enlightened me and told me that this was an attempt to bring aviation to young kids, both female and male. She really wanted to give them firsthand knowledge on that career path."

Various organizations also attended the event to offer guests the opportunity of a path into aviation. The vendors included BAE Systems, Hawaii National Guard, Aloha Chapter of Ninety-Nines, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Civil Air Patrol, among others. "As the women have pointed out today, the path to aviation actually starts by taking that first step. Ask questions of those who are already involved, find out what options are out there, whether it be military or civilian, and then begin the process," said Emerson.

Guests at the museum also received the opportunity to have their photos taken with the likes of Amelia Earheart, Rosie the Riveter, and a WASP pilot. The roles of these female icons and pioneers were played out by docents and volunteers at the museum. Women in Aviation is planned to be an annual event at the Pacific Aviation Museum.

"We are looking forward to an exciting year this year and planning for next year. We intend to expand the conference, not only as a main conference day, but also as a weekend long event," said Emerson. "This event kind of says, 'Hey women, come and see what aviation has for you,'" said Jackson.

 
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