Sixth-12th grade students explore aviation fields during Girls in Aviation Day
Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Media Contact: Kirsi McDowell | Senior Communications Specialist | 405-477-9347 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sitting behind the controls of a Cirrus Aircraft SR20, a 12-year-old girl peeked above
the dashboard and through the windshield.
As she gazed at the lights, buttons, levers and gauges that make up the cockpit, she imagined herself in uniform, ascending into the air, navigating the aircraft through the sky.
More than 150 girls experienced a similar feeling during Girls in Aviation Day — an Oklahoma State University, American Airlines and Tulsa International Airport organized event. Held at American Airlines Hangar 80 in Tulsa, the event invited sixth through 12th grade students to explore the field of aviation.
Aviation serves as one of Oklahoma’s largest industries, yet less than 30% of aviators are women and less than 6% are commercial pilots. With women making up the minority, faculty at OSU felt the need to raise awareness to female students.
Dr. Mallory Casebolt — associate professor for the School of Educational Foundations, Leadership and Aviation — collaborated with Oklahoma aviation entities statewide to make that happen. With Casebolt as the driving force, Girls in Aviation Day — a Women in Aviation International event — was brought to Tulsa in hopes to inspire the next generation of female aviators.
“The entire point of Girls in Aviation Day is to inspire and educate young ladies on the different opportunities in the field,” Casebolt said.
The event was first brought to Oklahoma in 2019. Although it was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19, Girls in Aviation Day was brought back as an annual event in 2022 and has only gained momentum since.
Booths were set up by various aviation entities throughout the hangar, allowing attendees to explore aviation careers. Girls had the opportunity to walk through static airplanes and build their own aircraft out of fabric while learning about aerodynamics. Attendees also learned about weather principles through creating artwork with cotton balls, markers and their imagination.
Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration spoke to girls about regulations
and rules while pilots described
the feeling of controlling an aircraft through the sky. Additionally, airline mechanics gave demonstrations of their tools and equipment, and attendees heard from other professionals who shared their specialty.
To further immerse girls into the world of aviation, a photo booth was set up for attendees to dress the part and take photos with passports and flight badges.
The action-packed day allowed them to meet other aspiring aviators and visit with female pilots, air traffic controllers, aircraft mechanics, engineers, drone pilots and other professionals. In addition to meeting female professionals, pre- registered attendees also went on an all-inclusive behind-the-scenes tour of Tulsa International Airport.
“Showing girls what aviation is by somebody that looks like them helps open their eyes to the possibility of working in aviation,” Casebolt said.
Additionally, faculty and students from collegiate aviation programs spoke with students
about education pathways.
Dana Friend — an aerospace administration and operations professional pilot senior who is the OSU chapter of Women in Aviation International president — volunteered at the event. Friend said she is a testament to the impact Girls in Aviation Day makes, as she discovered her true calling when attending the event in 2019.
“I owe it all to Girls in Aviation Day,” Friend said. “I met fighter pilots — all women — and they inspired me to pursue a career in the Air Force.”
By the end of the day, girls gained knowledge from all corners of the aviation field, Friend said.
“Girls can make helicopters out of two pieces of paper and watch it fall from the balcony and learn about aerodynamic principles,” Friend said. “It’s engaging and inspiring.”
The event took 200 volunteers, representation from multiple aviation entities, student organizations, and a year of planning by Casebolt and other faculty to bring the event to fruition. Thanks to Casebolt’s efforts, they received funding from the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission to continue their work of inspiring female aviators.
As an aviation enthusiast herself, Casebolt feels excited about the work they have done, and looks forward to continuing the legacy of Girls in Aviation Day annually.
“To watch the fascination of little girls when they climb in an airplane and just see their face light up is incredibly rewarding,” Casebolt said.
Learn more about aviation and space opportunities at okla.st/osuspace.
Photos By: Karen Gardner
Story By: Sierra Walter | ASPIRE Magazine