Friday, June 29, 2018

Lewis Mission Moments: Women in Aviation - Strengthening the Path

From a sky-high sight-seeing tour of Niagra Falls to dark clouds rolling in, two of Lewis' female aviators took to the skies to put their talents to the test.

Those two pilots are Jane Zieba and Megan Shaffer, who recently competed in the Air Race Classic against many other female pilots. It was a stormy ride for the Lewis University Air Race Classic Team, but 2,659 miles later they made it to the finish line in Fryeburg, Maine!

Out of approximately 609,306 pilots in the United States, only 42,694 are women (according to FAA's Aeronautical Center). That's a pretty significant imbalance, but the solution to diversifying aviation continues with the awareness, education, and opportunities available to young women like Jane and Megan. Opportunities that Lewis is proud to provide!

On the Lewis University Air Race Classic Team Facebook page, the women shared snippets of their adventure, including the incredible opportunity to meet a pioneer of females in aviation.

“Today was a very busy day for Team 50! Our official race briefings began and we got to meet a member of the group called Mercury 13. Her name is Gene Nora Jessen. The Mercury 13 were the first group of American women pilots to undergo tests to show that women are fit to be astronauts. A true trailblazer. She also authored the book Sky Girls which is about the very first all-female air race known as the Women's Air Derby that took place in 1929 that featured racers such as Amelia Earhart. This race transformed over time into the Air Race Classic that we are competing in. She signed and gifted a book to each racer. (We are very excited to read them). After that, we attended the Race Start Banquet where we heard from, Nell, a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) veteran. WASP was a group that flew military aircraft around the country for many purposes such as ferrying and training to help the WWII effort. The WASP training took place at Avenger field. The same airfield where we will be starting our race! At that point in time women flying those planes were unheard of, but they helped prove women were more than capable. Meeting and hearing these real life heroes and their stories reminded us just how lucky we are to be doing the thing we all love so deeply: FLY!”

In an industry dominated by men, these women are continuing the trend of a steady increase in females in aviation over the last two decades. It isn’t just the flight experience that makes an impact for these pilots, however – it’s the transformative experience of the opportunity to compete against, network with, and meet other extraordinary female aviators while beginning a career they truly love.


Great job representing #LewisU, Team Lewis Flyers, and we look forward to seeing what you accomplish in your careers!

Written by Allie Rios, Director of Advancement Communications