Women pilots speak to NYC Girl Scouts
By 1st Lt. Sybil Taunton, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center
/ Published March 28, 2012
JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --
In honor of Women's History Month, Col. Kimberly Corcoran, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center vice commander, took part in a panel discussion about women aviators at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City, March 24.
The panel included four female pilots from various aviation backgrounds and was geared toward educating and inspiring Girl Scouts from the local area.
"March has historically been our annual 'Salute to Women' month, so what better fit can we ask for?" said Eric Boehm, Curator, Aviation and Aircraft Restoration Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. "We like to showcase what we call, 'the humanity behind the hardware.' Most museums are great for going to see objects but we have a unique opportunity to highlight the people that used some of our objects."
The panel members were Bernice "Bee" Falk Haydu, a former Women's Airforce Service Pilot during World War II; Rear Adm. Wendi Carpenter, president of the State University of New York Maritime College and the Navy's first female aviator promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral; Leslie Watkins, a Jet Blue pilot and the first woman simulator instructor for the airline qualified to certify student pilots; and Col. Corcoran, EC vice commander and command pilot with more than 4,600 flying hours in various aircraft.
"Speaking events like this give me an opportunity to give back to the community by sharing my experiences," said Corcoran. "The majority of them seldom have an opportunity to speak to service members. Perhaps taking this time will open many of them to the opportunities that service provides, or at least provide insight into what we do."
After brief introductions, the panel members were given time to talk about their experiences as pilots. Bee Haydu, whose service uniform is now on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, offered insight into the life of a WASP including the challenges her and other women pilots faced during WWII and their fight to be recognized as veterans. Though Haydu and other WASPs began serving as ferry and instructor pilots in 1944, they were not officially recognized as WWII veterans until President Jimmy Carter signed a bill into law in 1977.
Carpenter and Corcoran discussed their challenges as women in predominately male flying units. Topics ranged from training and leadership to the lack of women's restrooms during the earlier parts of their careers, giving the audience perspective on the kinds of adverse struggles women have faced along the road to becoming successful aviators.
"The panel was multi-generational. We had Bee Haydu who was a WASP during WWII. She described difficulties and roadblocks that the others could hardly imagine. Col. Corcoran and Rear Adm. Carpenter represent the first generation that truly benefitted from the ground breaking work of Bee and her cohorts," said Boehm.
Boehm also commented that Watkins added balance to the event and exemplified the nature of our society where young women can balance a successful career, motherhood and a family life. Watkins discussed her career as a commercial pilot and the support she received after becoming the first female to achieve the status of Simulator Check Airman for Jet Blue.
"I would really like to thank these women for paving the way for me, and for all of you," said Watkins.
After the panel portion of the event, the Girl Scouts were given the opportunity to talk to each of the pilots one-on-one, where they able to ask more questions and learn more about aviation.
"I think the Girl Scouts went home with the reinforcing message, 'I can do anything I put my mind to'," said Boehm.