- Associated Press - Sunday, March 19, 2017

OCALA, Fla. (AP) - Caroline Morris was giggling so hard the 8-year-old could barely tell people how she felt about her first airplane flight at the Girls Fly event March 11 at Ocala International Airport.

“It was scary but awesome,” Caroline managed to get out between laughs as local pilot and aviation writer Judie Betz helped unfasten the first-time flier’s safety harness and earphones following a 15-minute introductory flight.

The flight reached an altitude of 2,000 feet and a cruising speed of about 120 mph. Caroline got to take the controls and turn the aircraft.

“I saw trees and beautiful houses,” Caroline said. She was at the event with her mother Carolyn and sister Victoria, 17. The family lives in Summerfield.

Caroline loved it so much she said she would definitely go flying again.

Betz, a pilot for 30 years, was one of several pilots providing the introductory flights. Betz flew her pink plane named “Bella Rose,” which is painted with flowers.

The annual event, which is offered by the Women of Aviation Worldwide during Women in Aviation Week, is aimed at encouraging girls in the sport and business of aviation.

It included a ground-instruction class on aircraft fundamentals, a tour of the airport control tower and seminars by women involved in different aspects of aviation.

Women in Aviation week is observed in March when the first woman received a private pilot’s license in 1910, according to Carol Ann Garratt, 62, who has made three flights around the world in her Mooney airplane.

Garratt, an invited presenter who conducted several of the programs, said only about 6 percent of people involved in aviation are women. The programs’ message is “you can do it,” Garratt said.

The introductory flight for participants are organized by the Experimental Airplane Association’s local chapter 812.

According to Warren Levin with the EAA chapter, 23 girls in the Young Eagles program were set to take introductory flights and receive a Log Book that contains information on financial support for a ground school. EAA chapter president Bob Law said information about aviation scholarships is also available at Young Eagles.org.

Trinity Catholic High School senior Alexandra Sexton - a 17-year-old who earned her private pilot’s license in November 2016 - conducted several of the programs.

On March 11, she talked about aircraft operation fundamentals, pointing out the flaps, rudder and other controls on an airplane in a hangar.

Alexandra, who told the group to “never stop learning,” is the first student in the TCHS aeronautical science classes backed by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to attain her private pilot’s license. Embry-Riddle adjunct professor John Edsall said about 33 percent of students in his classes at TCHS are female.

Alexandra’s sister, Charlene, 15, enjoyed an introductory flight and thinks her sister is “pretty cool.”

Charlotte McGillicuddy of Williston attended with her daughters, Courtney, 17, Amber, 12, and family friend Elizabeth, 12. Courtney said she sees flying as “less scary than driving.”

Remi Gray of Jacksonville accompanied her daughters Ayanna, 13, and Amaya, 11. The three were part of a group that took a tour of the 90-foot-tall control tower. Eric Park with airport operations led the group to the top where 360-degree windows provide panoramic views.

Ground controller Paul Ragan told the visitors that the airport’s air space extends up to 1,500 feet and covers a 4-mile-diameter circle and that controllers work the tower form 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

At a closing seminar, several women shared their aviation experiences with the group.

Garratt spoke of a “shortage of pilots” and encouraged the students to reach out for ground- and flight-training scholarships

Retired airline captain Ann Edmonson, 66, of the Spruce Creek fly-in community near Daytona, told the group she began flying at age 38 and has flown such jet aircraft as Boeing 747s and Airbus 330s.

Edmonson, a former Delta Airlines captain, flew a Boeing 767 for about four years during her 25-year-plus commercial flying career, which ranged from flying cargo including livestock to making international flights to South America, Europe and Asia.

Caroline Rimes, 21, of Lake Butler, who has earned her private pilot’s license and plans to become a commercial pilot, told the participants to “have confidence in themselves.”

Aircraft mechanic Daniella Radyvonyuk, 23, said she worked on aircraft engines and now installs electronic equipment in planes. She said that as she progressed in the profession she had a simple reply whenever male co-workers challenged her with a repair job.

“I will fix it,” she said.


Information from: Ocala (Fla.) Star-Banner, https://www.starbanner.com/

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