Women in Aviation Virtual Conference Lives Through March 2021

The 2021 inductees into the Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame include a retired Boeing executive, the first woman to lead the Delaware National Guard, and the first class of woman aviators in the US Marine Corps. Women in Aviation International

From preparing for an airline interview to learning how to pitch to donors for your non-profit organization’s fundraiser, Women in Aviation’s annual conference has always been about professional development for all of those who attend. Just because attendees have joined the conference virtually this year doesn’t mean the collaboration, networking, and advancement have diminished. If anything, the virtual platform drove home the importance of coming together any way possible to move the industry forward.

On Friday, March 12, WAI inducted its 2021 class for the Pioneer Hall of Fame, which recognizes trailblazing contributions across the aviation industry for both individuals and groups of women. First to be inducted was Joan Robinson-Berry, who most recently served as a Boeing Global Services vice president and chief engineer. Robinson-Berry’s career spanned 33 years, beginning as the first African-American from her neighborhood to graduate with an engineering degree. She was the first African-American woman to serve as a program manager at McDonnell Douglas, and she continued achieving success through her retirement from Boeing in July 2020. “You must absolutely refuse to give the challengers, doubters, and setbacks the power to dim your light,” said Robinson-Berry in an inspirational acceptance speech.

Major General Carol Timmons was the first woman to lead the Delaware National Guard, eventually serving as Adjutant General from February 2017 to March 2019. Over 42 years of military service, she demonstrated her commitment through several combat deployments. She earned her commission as colonel with the 166th Operations Group, Delaware National Guard, in April 2007, and her wings, flying the C-130 and the Huey helicopter, amassing a total of 9,000 civilian flight hours, and 5,000 military flight hours. She also flew as a first officer for United Airlines on the Boeing 767 and 757. Timmons passed away at age 62 in August 2020; her induction was accepted by her wife, Dr. Lynn Wass, who shared a quote from Timmons: “Being first is timing and tenacity. You just have to hang in there, and it all works out.”

The final inductees for 2021 were the first class of 10 women aviators for the US Marine Corps, who joined flight training for the Corps beginning in 1993. The pilots included: Lt. Col. Sarah Deal, Lt. Col. Traci Hoffman, Capt. Susan Jenkins, Maj Melinda Rizer Gould, Col. Alison Thompson, Maj. Donna Hesterman, Col. Karen Fuller Brannen, Capt. Jeanné Wilson, Maj. Keri Berman, and Maj. Christine Westrich. Deal accepted the award for her cadre of trailblazing pilots, remarking that they each blazed a path to some degree solo, given that they often served in widely separated operations and commands rather than within a single unit.

For those who still wish to take part in WAI 2021, the sessions remain online for access by registered participants through March 31. Next year, the conference will take place in person on March 17 to 19, 2022, in Nashville, Tennessee, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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