For the second year in a row, the Girls in Flight Training Academy (GIFT) is set to take off Nov. 3-9 at the Wilbarger County Airport (F05) north of Vernon, Texas. The training camp provides free instruction and low-cost airplane rentals to potential female pilots across the country. Housing is also provided, either in a house or in tents at the airport.
Mary Latimer, who spearheaded the project, and her husband Lawrence provide the majority of the instruction. The couple’s daughter, Tamara Griffith, is also part of the instructional team, and a third generation female pilot, Tamara’s daughter Amanda, will participate as a ground instructor, and possibly also as a CFI as she is currently in the process of completing her CFI certificate.
Latimer’s concept is to create a comfortable-but-intensive training environment for potential women pilots to encourage them to begin or complete the process of getting their pilot certificates. She said: “One of our selling points is that it’s a lousy location,” referring to the lack of distractions in Vernon. She says the environment is similar to Sweetwater, Texas, where the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) trained during World War II.
She wants to encourage others to adopt her concept, which she hopes will eventually increase the percentage of active women pilots, which according to FAA statistics is hovering around 6.7 percent. But she would be hard pressed to find others with a similar level of aviation experience. Latimer has been a flight instructor since 1974 and is a designated pilot examiner, retired ATC, A&P/IA mechanic and a corporate pilot flying a Conquest II.