Women of EAA soar to new heights

The average person may have limited knowledge on women in aviation, but within the industry, there are plenty of women active in the community. From pilots, heads of corporations and visitors from across the globe, EAA’s AirVenture 2014 proved to be home to women from all different career fields, interests and experiences.
Visitors from all over the world come out to experience AirVenture. Vera Fleddermman from Bersenbrück, Germany is back in the United States and dropped by the event with her former host family.

Fleddermman, who was an exchange student in Wisconsin from 2008-09 planned her family’s trip to the US around EAA. Both her father and brother are airplane enthusiasts and model airplane pilots.

“When my father told his friends that he was coming to EAA, they were so shocked and envious,” Fleddermman says. “They said ‘Ah! Oshkosh!’ There are no shows this size in Germany.”

Fleddermann has enjoyed seeing all of the aviation exhibits with her former host family. She noted the scale of the event and how much there is to see.

“The event is known all over the world, so we had to come visit at the same time,” she says with a laugh.

AirVenture is notable not only for the number of visitors it attracts, but also for the displays corporations set up and exhibits that are offered. Piper Aircraft Inc. from Vero Beach, Fla. is among the major companies that visit AirVenture each year.

Piper Aircraft exhibit_1

“When I was a little girl, my dream was to do something exciting,” says Jacqueline Carlon, director of marketing and corporate communications at Piper Aircraft Inc. “I saw the male-dominated field of aviation as an opportunity to do something other girls weren’t doing … (being a female in the field) set me apart.”

Carlon, who grew up around flying and aviation was always involved with airplanes, and gradually began to appreciate her knowledge on the subject, as well as realize how little the general public understood about aviation.

“The industry is constantly changing. Back then, people thought the only job in aviation was to be a pilot. Now we need engineers, PR specialists … it’s a huge field,” Carlon says.

Coincidentally, nearly the entire Piper team at the AirVenture exhibit was female. Coming from a variety of backgrounds outside of aviation, the women of Piper are a part of the changing face of aviation today.

Piper Air women

And, AirVenture is the perfect place for these women — and other airplane enthusiasts — to gather. Carlon has been attending the event since she was a little girl.

“EAA is our homecoming,” Carlon says. “There’s a different atmosphere than other shows we go to. I walked into the hotel last night and said ‘I’m home.’”

Both seasoned AirVenture vets like Carlon, as well as first-time exhibitors like powered parachute pilot Pamela Voller, are proof of the growing number of women in the industry.

Two years after losing her oldest daughter, Voller was taken on a trip in a friend’s powered parachute. What was initially a kind gesture, blossomed into a passion and a means of healing for her. She ended up buying the powered parachute she flew in, and is now a certified pilot.

Voller parachute

“Flying is almost like working a way out of the grave,” Voller explains. She says flying allows her to set a goal for the future even when painful experiences have happened in the past.

Visiting AirVenture with AutoGyro, Voller successfully flew into grounds for the first time this year. She says the self-confidence gained from flying is one of her favorite things about aviation.

“I like to fly into higher altitudes and then cut the engine and glide down to lower altitudes. Just the feeling of being able to fly is amazing.”

Voller is also looking into deepening her relationship with aviation. Aside from introducing her husband to flying, she is currently training to be a mechanic and a certified flight instructor. Voller is 11 hours into her 40-hour gyro flight training.

For these and other women in aviation, there is nothing but clear skies ahead.

— By Mia Sato

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