Author: Andrea Naverson/ Ranch & Coast Magazine
When Jill Meyers was a girl, she was fascinated with flight. She built model airplanes and pedaled her bike to the local airport to watch the planes. But, she had no role models. “Most of the time I was told ‘no, you can’t do that,’ or ‘no, you shouldn’t do that.’” Meyers didn’t listen. She got a pilot’s license at 17 and later joined the U.S. Air Force, where she learned to work on airplanes, though at the time, she wasn’t allowed to fly them. She went on to earn an aerospace engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin and professional roles at Raytheon, Boeing, and Eclipse Aviation.
These days, Meyers works as a volunteer and mentor, inspiring young girls and providing role models. As president of the San Diego Chapter of Women in Aviation International (WAI), the Cardiff resident is dedicated to the advancement of women in the flying world, whether in the cockpit or on the tarmac. Meyers points out that women make up 51 percent of the population, yet only 13 percent of aerospace engineers, 16 percent of air traffic controllers, 6 percent of licensed pilots, and just 3 percent of commercial airline pilots. Those numbers are sobering given a projected shortage of pilots and aviation personnel.
Meyers wants to encourage more women to enter aviation careers by emphasizing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiatives here in San Diego. In 2015, she organized WAI San Diego’s first ever “Girls in Aviation Day” at Palomar-McClellan Airport in Carlsbad. It gave dozens of girls the chance to learn about aviation education, interact with women in aviation careers, and spend time with the all-female crew of a Navy H-60 Seahawk helicopter. “A friend came up to me, put her arms around me, and said, ‘You have changed all these girls’ lives,’” recalls Meyers, “which is exactly why I do it.” The third annual event will be held on September 23.
Women in Aviation also mentors young women like 19-year-old Victoria (Tori) Peck, who got her private pilot’s license this year with the ultimate goal of becoming a corporate pilot. Peck, who works for GoJump, a sky-diving operation in Oceanside, also wants to earn a helicopter pilot’s license and skydiving license. Inspired by Amelia Earhart in the fourth grade, Peck dressed up like the celebrated aviator in her great grandfather’s leather flight cap for a school project. Her uncle, a United Airlines pilot, also encouraged her to fly. But it wasn’t until Meyers and the WIA got her a scholarship for an introductory flight at Montgomery Field’s Coast Flight that Peck was hooked. “The second that flight left the ground, I was sold,” she recalls. “I walked into the [flight] school afterward and asked, ‘How do I sign up?"
by Chris Davis
WAI San Diego is pleased to announce that Karina Orozco has been selected to receive a scholarship provided to us by UCSD Extension, for one middle- or high-school student to attend the Sally Ride Science Junior Academy. The Junior Academy is in its second year and offers science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) workshops for students entering 6th-12th grade. During these workshops, students assume the roles of space explorer, ocean engineer, computer scientist, and more as they immerse themselves in hands-on projects.
Karina is a sophomore at Irvine High School and is interested in basketball, photography, video production, and Photoshop. She expressed interested in this scholarship partly due to the hands-on nature of the program. Karina said she "loves technology and the fact that it is always evolving, and because our world revolves around it." She is looking forward to working with different technologies that she doesn't have access to in school. Karina said that she "believes that being able to collaborate with new people will be a great experience to have for later in life; overall I think this will help me learn and grow in a fun and positive way!"
We are thrilled to award this scholarship to Karina for the 2017 program, and we extend our thanks to our sponsor, UCSD Extension. Get more information on the Sally Ride Science Junior Academy.
Meyers was impressed by Peck’s drive and focus. “Not many people have plotted out a path, like she has. She knows exactly what she wants to do. She’s extremely focused and driven. You don’t see that often in someone who’s 19.” Peck, in turn, is mentoring girls as young as 13. “It’s nice to have people who look up to you, especially at such a young age,” she says. “It pushes them to work a little harder.”
Two upcoming movie projects may inspire more girls to take flight. FlyGirls, a television series proposed, directed, and produced by Matia Anne Karrell, champions the role of Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) in World War II. “FlyGirls is much more than a sepia-toned war drama,” writes Karrell. “It’s the true story of an extraordinary group of women swept up in the complex social and political changes of the 20th century. At a time when most women could only imagine becoming a hairdresser, a teacher, or a waitress, these women pilots were driven by the need for a bigger purpose. They dared to become more, and the sky provided boundless space for their dreams to take flight.”
Fly Like a Girl, a feature-length documentary now in production, explores the “courageous history of women in aviation,” and examines why many girls don’t gravitate toward STEM careers. Director Katie McEntire Wiatt was a primary school teacher, where she learned first-hand about the confidence gap girls face in the classroom — especially when it comes to STEM subjects. One student told her: “Mrs. Wiatt, girls just aren’t good at math.” The comment was a poignant reminder of Wiatt’s own early struggles, and the fifth grade teacher who once pointedly said to her: “Some girls, like you, just can’t do math.” Wiatt is now determined to change how girls perceive themselves, their abilities, and their place in the world. She hopes Fly Like a Girl will encourage and empower them to do just that. As Meyers so aptly puts it: “The sky is NOT the limit. It’s just the beginning.”
waisd.org, flygirls.com, flylikeagirl.film
Fly Like A Girl: Courtesy Image All Other Photography by Vincent Knakal
Women in Aviation International (WAI) San Diego Chapter is pleased to announce the winner of their 2016 Aviation Career Scholarship. WAI San Diego Chapter President Jill Meyers awarded the $2,500 scholarship to Eileen Shea Davis, to recognize Shea’s aviation accomplishments thus far and to acknowledge her impressive career goals.
Jill represented the Scholarship Committee in saying, “It was my honor to award our first Chapter Scholarship to Shea, who exemplifies what WAI is all about. We strive to provide support and encouragement to women seeking challenging careers in aviation and aerospace. Shea’s personal and career successes, and determination to do great things in aviation, far exceeded those of the other applicants.”
Shea grew up in Southern California with a love for the sciences. From the time she was a very young girl, she wanted to venture into space and explore the unknown. Shea graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI in 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and an emphasis in Marine Biology. After graduation, she joined the United States Navy as an Aviation Machinist’s Mate, working on maintenance and upkeep of aircraft engines. Once she got a taste of the aviation life she was hooked.
Shortly after she enlisted, Shea decided to work towards a commission as a Naval Aviator. To that end, she began studying Professional Aeronautics at San Diego’s Miramar Community College in pursuit of an Associate’s Degree. Shea also began taking flying lessons with local aviation legend Dave Derby, flying his Citabria out of Gillespie Field.
She submitted her Officer Candidate School application package in October and is eagerly awaiting the results. After getting her Navy commission, Shea’s goals are to fly the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and hopefully get orders one day to join NASA’s astronaut corps. In winning this scholarship, Shea said, “I hope to follow in the footsteps of the strong women who have already made great strides in advancing women in science and aviation, and I hope to inspire and mentor other women and girls who also have the dream of flight and space exploration.”
The WAI San Diego 2016 Aviation Career Scholarship was funded by the University of California San Diego (UCSD), who now runs the nonprofit Sally Ride Science, an organization that inspires young people in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Dr. Edward Abeyta, Director or Pre-Collegiate and Career Preparation Programs & Assistant Dean for Community Engagement said “UC San Diego is pleased to support WAI’s efforts to engage, inspire, and develop young women to be our next engineers, pilots, and much more in this high growth industry sector.”
A portion of the scholarship money will be used to fund Shea’s flight training hours as she works to complete her private pilot certificate. The remaining funds will be used to send Shea on an all-expenses paid trip to the 2017 International Women in Aviation Conference in Orlando, Florida in March. WAI San Diego and UCSD congratulate Shea Davis in being selected for this award.
On September 16th, WAI San Diego Chapter President Jill Meyers was acknowledged for her outstanding leadership, character and integrity, not only in her field of Aerospace Engineering, but in a large part for the work she does for WAISD and the San Diego community as a whole.
As members of WAISD, we all know of Jill’s unwavering commitment to promoting the involvement of women and girls in aviation and aerospace. It is heartening to see that we are not the only ones who appreciate all she does for women, especially in the San Diego area.
We congratulate Jill for this recognition of her professional excellence, her contributions of time and energy to the improvement of our community, and for actively assisting women in realizing their full potential.
Jill received the 2016 Women in Leadership Award from the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, one of seven winners out of 35 nominees. The Annual Women In Leadership Luncheon takes place every fall and celebrates women from all over San Diego County who have made an impact on their community. The awards were presented at a luncheon with over 350 attendees and covered by local media.
The Women in Leadership Award recognized the dedicated work Jill does with WAI and in her acceptance speech she talked about how much it means to her to help the next generation of women interested in aviation and aerospace. She spoke about what inspired her as a young woman, and of the number of times she was told "no, you can't do that", or "no, you shouldn't do that" because she was a girl. Luckily for those of us who know her for the leader she is, she went ahead and did those things anyway. Read more about Jill’s background.
(Jill’s speech received the only full-room standing ovation of the event and she has already been contacted about several speaking engagements.) Read her speech.
In addition to Women in Leadership Award, this month Jill was also named Section Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee for the San Diego Chapter of The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Thank you, Jill Meyers, for serving as a role model and mentor to other women and girls and for advocating for the positive social change that helps close the leadership gap. You have earned the respect of your community and your peers with your actions and attitude and absolutely deserve this recognition for giving your time, talents and resources to the women and girls of San Diego.