On 11/10/2012, Sugar Valley Airport hosted the event titled, “The Spirit of Aviation: Outstanding Women and Today’s Opportunities.” More than 200 current and potential aviation enthusiasts gathered to celebrate the achievements of women in aviation, learn about career and educational opportunities for women in the field, as well as enjoy airplane rides.
Ideal weather greeted the crowd, which included many parents who brought their children. They heard keynote speeches and panelist comments from a dozen accomplished women aviators, including helicopter, fighter jet, and commercial pilots; aircraft designers and restorers; aviation executives and flight instructors; and the woman who successfully recreated the ill-fated, around-the-world last flight of Amelia Earhart 75 years ago.
The message delivered consistently by the speakers was to dream big and not allow one’s inhibitions or circumstances to intervene. The door to aviation is wide open to women today, they said, and it’s up to each individual to walk through.
“Dreams and determination are a powerful combination,” said Dena Miller, a commercial pilot and flight instructor from Greensboro. “Add creativity and you’re unstoppable.” Dr. Samantha A. Magill, a flight sciences engineer at Honda Aircraft, extolled the “power of the human spirit to overcome anything,” observing: “When you’re pushing your limit and you think your tank is empty, guess what? You have a little bit more.”
Featured speaker Bridgett “Atlas” Fitzsimmons, an Air Force captain and F-15E Strike Eagle pilot with 200 combat hours in Afghanistan, underscored that message. “You’ve got to know what you want and go get it,” she said. “I’ve always strived to do my best for the sake of the girls that came behind me.”
Featured speaker Linda Finch, a veteran pilot and airshow performer who in 1997 recreated Earhart’s flight, spoke of her idol’s use of flying to inspire others to dream and overcome obstacles to fulfill their desires. “Most of us don’t set our limits high enough,” she noted. “We are fearful of failure. But it’s through failure that we learn. That was Amelia’s message: to live large, full lives without limit and with integrity, passion, and courage.”