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The City Journals

Celebrate Girls in Aviation Day at West Jordan airport

Oct 05, 2021 10:14AM ● By Alison Brimley

Women in Aviation International—a worldwide organization with a local Salt Lake chapter—has declared Sept. 25 “Girls in Aviation day” in hopes of exposing girls to careers in aviation, a field where women remain dramatically outnumbered. (Photo by Jon Ly.)

By Alison Brimley | [email protected]

In many of the most aspirational career fields, women are steadily marching toward equal representation. Just under 40% of doctors are now women. The same is true for lawyers. About 42% of tenure-track college faculty are women. 

When it comes to aviation, though, the numbers are less encouraging. At the end of 2020, women made up just over 8% of pilots in the United States.

This is a discrepancy Women in Aviation International, a nonprofit group “dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of women in all aviation career fields” is working to address. 

WAI has declared Sept. 25 “Girls in Aviation Day.” The group’s local chapter hosted this year’s seventh annual Girls in Aviation event, on Sept. 25 at the South Valley Regional Airport in West Jordan. 

The event—which was open to the public but aimed at girls ages 8 to 17—featured (subject to weather) various aircraft on display, including a Black Hawk helicopter from the Army National Guard base. Local flight schools staffed booths and showcase their aircraft, while a raffle offered opportunities to take intro flights with different flight schools. Delta, Skywest, UVU and Cornerstone Aviation were all there, as well as others. A pancake breakfast was served, and free backpacks were offered to the first 100 attendees. Girl Scouts had an opportunity to earn an Aviation Day patch. 

Lisa Konkel is the president of the Great Salt Lake chapter of Women in Aviation. She’s also a commercial single-engine pilot and a current flight attendant for Delta. 

“I’ve been interested in planes since I was little,” Konkel said. But in middle school, someone told her that she couldn’t fly planes because she wore glasses. It was enough to derail her from the path of a pilot for many years.

After college, Konkel worked as a flight attendant for a few years. It was as a Delta employee that she realized that she had been given incorrect information by her middle school classmate. While it used to be true that glasses wearers were barred from being pilots, this is no longer the case. So, she began her pilot training, which she’s currently completing while also working as a flight attendant.

Her current level of training means she can now get paid to fly planes. When she’s finished, she hopes to return to Delta as a pilot.

Now, as part of Women in Aviation, Konkel’s aim is to show young women the realities and the many possible pathways toward becoming a pilot. It’s something girls still aren’t taught to consider as fully as their male counterparts might be. “It’s not presented to a lot of people when they’re younger,” she said. 

There may be confusion as to how enter the field, Konkel said. Many assume you “have to enter through the military. But you can go through a civilian path as well.” 

Throughout the year, Women in Aviation puts on events to show people that “there are so many paths to take.” Some local high schools offer private pilot ground school. You can go to college and get an aviation degree. “

Or you can be an air traffic controller, an engineer, a mechanic, a dispatcher, a parachute rigger—all are actively promoted and represented by WAI. 

“It can be very insular,” Konkel said. “People don’t realize all there is [in the field of aviation], even if you don’t want to fly planes.” She hopes Girls in Aviation day will offer girls an opportunity to meet female role models in the field. 

Anyone interested in promoting the aims of Women in Aviation is welcome to join—no pilot’s license required.