When Dr. Peggy Chabrian announced last summer her planned retirement from the organization she founded, Women in Aviation International, the search was on immediately for the person who would steer WAI into the future. On Monday, February 10, the group announced that Allison McKay has accepted the position of CEO, effective February 18.
McKay comes to her role leading the 14,500-member WAI from most recently serving as vice president of the Helicopter Association International Foundation where, since 2015, she has overseen workforce development initiatives, and the commissioning of the first academic study into staffing projections for the rotorcraft industry. Adding to her 20 years of experience in the aviation industry, McKay also worked for Safran and B/E Aerospace.
Marci Veronie, board chair, outlined the process by which they selected the new leader for the organization. “The WAI board of directors formed an executive search committee to conduct an extensive search for a new leader to continue our organization’s critical role in encouraging more women to pursue careers in aviation and aerospace,” said Veronie. “Allison’s substantial experience in corporate philanthropy, event management, and government relations, plus her strategic thinking and long-term relationships with key industry stakeholders, established Allison as the best candidate to lead WAI into a strong future while inspiring the next generation as they enter our industry.”
Flying spoke with McKay on the eve of the announcement. She’s been in aviation her entire career, beginning in sales and marketing, then moving to government affairs and foundation development. “Now my passion is workforce development, and that’s what propelled me towards WAI,” said McKay. “I’m interested in getting people into the industry both on the pilot and technician side but also in other roles.” She sees the organization’s mission as relevant as ever. “We can’t rely on traditional ways” to staff the aviation industry. “We have to look at new channels, and that’s encouraging women and minorities. And those are the pathways to bringing as many people into the industry as possible.” McKay will remain based in the Washington, D.C. area, where she will continue to be close to those decision-makers for collaboration. “I understand the importance of working with the federal government on important programs like this, pushing the pipeline for the industry. I want to establish a closer voice with D.C. on issues that affect women in aviation.”