The 27th annual International Women in Aviation Conference accomplished its goal to Connect. Engage. Inspire. at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, March 10-12, 2016.
"Thousands of women made powerful connections this week that will enhance their lives and careers for years to come," said Women in Aviation International (WAI) President Dr. Peggy Chabrian. "Attendees and exhibitors alike agree that we continue to raise the bar for energy, support, enthusiasm and camaraderie."
Saturday night's closing banquet stood out this year as WAI celebrated awarding $10,000,000 in scholarships since the inception of its scholarship program in 1995. British aviatrix Amy Johnson; Brenda Robinson, the U.S. Navy's first African-American female pilot; Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger and the women of U.S. Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 77-08 were all inducted into WAI's International Pioneer Hall of Fame.
For many attendees, a WAI conference means an opportunity to connect with airlines. WAI's Fast Pass program continues to be enhanced so that preregistered attendees have a timeslot for their interviews, thus eliminating long lines in the exhibit hall. At this year's conference, 4,640 Fast Passes were issued to 2,064 members. The Fast Pass allows conference-goers to sign up in advance for interviews and briefings by airlines which are held in meeting rooms rather than in the exhibit hall.
Elsewhere in the exhibit hall, companies and organizations remained busy fielding questions, showing off products, signing up new clients, renewing relationships with existing clients, and making connections with conference-goers. General sessions were held on Friday and Saturday with both afternoons reserved for a selection of education sessions.
Introducing the "Aviation Girl" Girl Scout Fun Patch
WAI's successful youth outreach, Girls in Aviation Day, continued in Nashville. Since many of the girls taking part in Girls in Aviation Day are local Girl Scouts, WAI introduced - and awarded to the Scouts - a Girl Scout Fun Patch depicting an airplane with "Aviation Girl" on it. Nearly 300 participants were introduced to aviation through a dozen aviation inspired hands-on activities, meeting with role models from all aspects of aviation, and luncheon speaker Dr. Rhea Seddon, astronaut and author. One of the favorite activities for the girls was crafting wire bracelets with tools and guidance from the Association of Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM). In the afternoon, the girls went on a scavenger hunt in the exhibit hall to engage with exhibitors and attendees.
This important program will continue with WAI's global Girls in Aviation Day on September 24, 2016, where local WAI chapters will plan and execute their own unique events for girls 8 to 17 years old.
"Our members have enthusiastically embraced Girls in Aviation Day and are eager to serve as role models, answer questions and generally welcome the girls to the aviation community," says Dr. Chabrian. "We are all thrilled to be the ignition source for aviation careers and interests."
Other conference highlights include:
- Attendance of nearly 5,000 individuals, including 91 international attendees. Representing 16 countries (including the United States), the largest number of international attendees were from Nigeria, Canada, and Ghana, in that order.
- The exhibit hall hosted 170 separate companies and organizations (breaking a WAI record for most exhibitors), representing all aspects of the aviation community.
- 126 scholarships were distributed to WAI members at every stage of life from university students to mature members seeking a mid-life career change to aviation. A total of $661,234 in scholarships were awarded, which put the total scholarships awarded more than $10,000,000 since the inception of the scholarship program.
- The WAI chapter network topped 100 global chapters as groups from as close as Grand Rapids, MI and as far away as Ghana, completed paperwork to form their local WAI chapters.
The 28th annual International Women in Aviation Conference will be held March 2-4, 2017, at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. For more information, visit www.wai.org.
Note to Editors: High-resolution photographs of all aspects of the Conference, including the Girl Scout Fun Patch, are available at photo.wai.org.