Founder of Women in Aviation International speaks at the Wichita Aero Club Monthly meeting

October 18, 2011 9:57am

Under the leadership of Dr. Peggy Chabrian the Women in Aviation International has grown from a conference of 150 attendees in Arizona in 1990 to 8,000 members including representatives from more than 50 countries worldwide. Dr. Chabrian spoke to an audience of more than 100 attendees at the monthly luncheon of the Wichita Aero Club on September 7 and emphasized that aviation, “which used to be an ‘old boys network’” is now populated by women in positions from the hangar floor to the flight deck and from A&Ps to CEOs.

Obviously, in the two decades since the organization held its first meeting until today, “the value of an international organization with a goal of encouraging young people to enter the aerospace industry has struck a responsive chord,” she noted. As if to underscore the point, she added that, its most recent conference in Reno, Nevada, Women in Aviation distributed more than 50 scholarships with a combined value in excess of $460,000.

“Our goal is to help those women who are already in aviation and to encourage those who are considering aviation as a career,” Chabrian said. “Too often, when we say ‘women in aviation,’ all anyone thinks about is Amelia Earhart. Well, she was an amazing aviator—but there is so much more of the story to tell. We focus on three basic messages:

  1. We start by encouraging young people to pursue careers in aviation, including but not limiting that focus on becoming pilots;
  2. We emphasize the importance of networking opportunities, and
  3. We remind the public of the role women have played in aviation history.”

Chabrian recalled a recent ceremony she attended honoring more than 100 Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) who flew virtually every model of military aircraft as test and ferry pilots during World War II. She also noted that 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the first pilot’s license awarded to a woman in the United States. It was granted to Harriett Quimby in August of 1911.

Dr. Chabrian’s husband, Jerry, whom she met at an air show in Florida, accompanied her. She jokingly noted that he could be considered one of the benefits of her career in aviation, too. A flight in his airplane for dinner at an airport restaurant turned out to be their first date.

Dr. Chabrian is a 2300-hour commercial instrument multi-engine pilot and flight instructor who has been flying for over 30 years. A former dean at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, she has served as the head of WAI since its inception. To find out more about Women in Aviation International, visit their website,

The next Wichita Aero Club meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 18 at noon at the Wichita Airport Hilton Hotel. Barry Eccleston, President and CEO of Airbus Americas will be the speaker. Tickets and information can be obtained by visiting the Wichita Aero Club web