By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter –
This story first appeared online on Dec. 5, 2020.
OKLAHOMA CITY– To honor the significant impact women have made to aviation and the aerospace industry, the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC) in partnership with Tulsa International Airport, will commemorate the state’s fifth annual Oklahoma Women in Aviation & Aerospace Day through a virtual Zoom forum on Thursday, December 9 at 12 noon.
The free 2020 event, themed, “Mission: Opportunity” will take place online via Zoom in lieu of their annual in-person luncheon due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the forum, the commission will feature honored NASA representatives, Kathy Leuders, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations and Janet Karika, Principal Advisor on Space Transportation to the Administrator.
“I’m excited that we are able to continue the tradition of this event with speakers who demonstrate transformative leadership of the world’s most prestigious space exploration program,” said Alexis Higgins, CEO of Tulsa International Airport.
The virtual forum, reserved for Aviation and Aerospace enthusiasts and personnel, will provide an opportunity to learn more about what led Leuders and Karika to pursue a career path with NASA, and “how to advocate on behalf of Aviation and Aerospace in order to encourage children of all ages to dream big and find their passion in our exciting industry,” Higgins said.
“I look forward to joining our audience as we celebrate the success of women who came before us, recognize the influence of women in our industry today, and commit to investing in activities that inspire future leaders in aviation and space,” Higgins said.
State Director of Aeronautics, Grayson Ardies stated, “The history of Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day began in 2017 when the Aeronautics Commission presented a bill to the Oklahoma legislature, and it was enacted into law, to officially recognize the contribution of Oklahoma women in the State’s aviation and aerospace industry December 9th annually.”
Also this month, December 8 marks the birth of the Chickasaw aviator, Pearl Carter Scott, of Marlow, Oklahoma. At the age of 13, Scott learned to fly under the instruction of legendary Oklahoma aviator Wiley Post. She became the youngest pilot in the United States with her first solo flight on September 12, 1929, the same year that Amelia Earhart established the female pilot group, the Ninety-Nines.
“For the safety of Oklahoma’s aviation and aerospace community, this year the event is virtual,” said Ardies. “The challenge to adjust our program has allowed us the latitude to reach more people, and we are encouraging public school educators, colleges, and companies to utilize the forum to share the event with their students and employees.”
According to the OAC press release, the State’s first true municipal airport was established in 1920 on land leased to Oklahoma City. One year earlier, Tulsa’s first private airport was founded by former military barnstormer and New Zealand native Duncan McIntyre.
“The vehicle to launch our growth was the airplane, and building airports was essential to support growing cities,” Ardies said.
Today, Oklahoma has become an aerospace and aviation leader, with 108 public-use airports creating a $44B annual economic impact generated by 1,100 aviation and aerospace companies, the press release notes.
“Though our industry and the world have been challenged with a novel virus this year, our missions continue to move forward,” Ardies said. “While aircraft design remains center stage for the majority of our transportation needs, today’s leaders are focusing on spacecraft and unmanned aerial systems to meet future transportation needs of both people and cargo.
“Women are leading this charge developing strategies and formulating plans that will propel us through our current challenges and position our nation – and the world – for a future of opportunities beyond earth’s boundaries,” Ardies continued.
“Today women are represented in all sectors of our industry – from commercial airports to military installations to the growing space sector. Women are turning wrenches, engineering avionics, piloting rockets, and some are leading us into this century’s most consequential transportation development – commercial space flight.”
To register for the free “Mission: Opportunity” online event, click here. For more information, call Sandra Shelton, OAC Public and Government Affairs Coordinator, at 405-464-8830. To learn more, visit oac.ok.gov.