These women have wings
AMY ZUBEK/TIMES NEWS Members of the Keystone Chapter of the 99s Inc., as well as women pilots, attending a recent meet and greet of the group at Jake Arner Memorial Airport in Mahoning Township, pose in front of a plane in the hangar at the airport. Kneeling is Diana Kelly. Standing, from left, are Cathy Lokes, Fran Stahl, Nancy Heydt, LuAnn Noll, Susannah Cook, Jennifer Miska and Sally Moritz.
Women pilots are a special breed.
During a recent meet and greet event at the Jake Arner Memorial Airport in Mahoning Township, members of the Keystone Chapter of the 99s Inc., an international organization of licensed women pilots, spoke with other women pilots and women interested in flying.
They talked about their flying experiences, lessons, first flights, networks they are involved in, and the importance of getting women involved in aviation.
"We're trying to get wives, daughters, and mothers involved in flying," said Jennifer Miska, a member of the Keystone Chapter of the 99s and a pilot for nearly three years.
"We're really a diverse chapter."
She noted that one member flies for the coast guard, while another flies for Angel Flight, a volunteer-based organization created by a group of pilots to help patients in need of transportation to or from their home.
Miska also said becoming a pilot is a huge accomplishment in a woman's life.
"For me, it's something next to child birth," she said, adding "because it's a challenge you don't think you can do, but then you do."
Currently, the Keystone chapter, which began in 1989, has 14 active members and has been trying to educate the public about the group.
Some events the chapter holds annually include projects with the Girl and Boy Scouts, hosting meet and greets, and other safety exercises for pilots.
Most of the women who attended the meet and greet shared similar stories about how they decided they would become a pilot.
Susannah Cook, who has been flying for five years, found her passion for flying when a friend from church flew her to dinner.
After that she soon got her wings. She now flies as a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight.
Sally Moritz said the social aspect and camaraderie is what helped her. She has been a pilot since 1992 and currently holds her instrument rating and commercial licenses.
LuAnn Noll, a new member of the group, completed her first solo flight in February 1972. She explained that she found love while flying and she and her husband of 23 years are both pilots.
Of flying, Noll said that, "it's a sense of freedom" because it's tranquil and very peaceful while you're soaring through the air.
Diana Kelly, a longtime pilot, learned how to fly through the civil air patrol, a part of the United States Air Force Auxiliary, in Quakertown.
During her time there, she participated in search and rescue missions.
The women urge anyone interested in learning how to fly to visit a local airport and talk to instructors.
Currently, the overall number of pilots is decreasing, but the number of women pilots is on the rise.
There are scholarships available for women interested in becoming a pilot or making a career in aviation.
Miska explained that one scholarship available to women is the Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship, which was created in 1940 as a way to honor Earhart, the 99s first president and a famous woman pilot.
For more information on that scholarship, as well as other scholarships available to women pilots, visit http://www.ninety-nines.org/index.cfm/other_scholarships.htm.
For more information on aircraft, training and safety, and more, Miska recommends visiting the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association website at www.aopa.org.
The 99s organization was started by 26 women on Nov. 2, 1929 in Valley Stream, N.Y. Since then, the group has expanded to hundreds of groups across the country and has touched the lives of thousands of women throughout the years.
For more information on the Keystone Chapter e-mail email@example.com.
More information on the 99s Inc. can be found at http://www.ninety-nines.org.