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Women of Vertical Flight Take Off Together
  • 29 May 2024 09:42 PM
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Women of Vertical Flight Take Off Together

Caption: Kickoff meeting for WOVEN at the Vertical Flight Society's 80th Annual Forum & Technology Display on May 8, 2024. (VFS photo by Warren Liebmann)

By Dr. Natasha Schatzman

Women are no strangers to vertical lift. In 1931, Amelia Earhart reached a world record for flying a Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro and reaching an altitude of 18,415 feet (5,613 meters). Since then, women have continued to make meaningful impact in the field of vertical flight. The Vertical Flight Society’s own mascot — Hovey the Hummingbird — is a female who has aided in accelerating the next generation of vertical flight for over 80 years!

On May 8, 2024, a kickoff meeting was held for women in vertical flight at the Vertical Flight Society's 80th Annual Forum & Technology Display. Over 60 women (plus incoming VFS Technical Director Dr. Al Brand) attended the kickoff meeting for Women in Vertical Flight Engineering Network (WOVEN), led by the 2022 Alexander A. Nikolsky Honorary Lecturer Professor Marilyn Smith from the Georgia Institute of Technology. WOVEN is a newly formed VFS organization for women by women to guide professional development, help navigate career hurdles, provide mentorship and make friends!

It is important to highlight Whirly-Girls International, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing women in helicopter aviation with an emphasis on supporting women helicopter pilots. Similar to WOVEN’s initial meeting, the Whirly-Girls organization was established at the Society’s 11th Annual Forum in 1955.

Numerous past and present Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) winners attended, along with leaders in vertical flight, including — but not limited to — Gwen Lighter (CEO of GoAERO and GoFly), Dr. Maryam Khoshlahjeh (Senior Manager for Propellers at Archer Aviation) and Susan Gorton (former manager of NASA’s Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology project).

Discussions covered topics such as how to foster relationships in a predominantly male field. As a follow-up, women who have expressed interest in WOVEN will be sent a survey to ensure that the group focuses on important topics of interest. WOVEN plans to hold quarterly (remote) meetings in addition to an annual meeting at the Forum, as well as creating a one-on-one mentoring program in the near future.

WOVEN logo

WOVEN logo designed by Isabelle Pichay, NASA Ames Research Center.

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