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Women aviators of the past, present and future to be celebrated at Peter O. Knight Airport

Women aviator celebration Robert Boyd WFTS.png
Posted at 9:01 AM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-18 22:03:34-04

TAMPA, Fla. — March is Women’s History Month, and 75 years ago this month the first all-women air show in the world took place on Davis Island.

The walk to an aircraft at Peter O. Knight Airport is a walk through history, according to Sara Behnke, with the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, as she looks back to 1947.

“It was a struggling time for women pilots at the time and the purpose of that original airshow was to advocate for women but also raise money to promote the future of women in aviation,” said Behnke.

Three quarters of a century later, women are still very much a minority in the industry, so it’s time for another monumental event. They’re calling it a GALA.

“Girls achieving leadership in aviation, the purpose of it is to promote women in aviation and to celebrate the history of women in aviation, the present women in aviation, but also the future,” said Behnke.

The March 19 fundraiser will be held right on the tarmac of Peter O. Knight Airport and will go toward scholarships so young women can pursue their aviation dreams.

“Aviation is sort of thought of as an expensive hobby or career to pursue so we just want to make sure we open the doors for everyone, no matter what your background is or how much money you have,” said Behnke. “It's not just about pilots or engineers or mechanics we are looking at a full-on industry, like business. For example, I’m a woman in aviation and I happen to be in the business of aviation.”

Flight instructor Joanna McPherson said with this kind of support, she’s optimistic the next generation of pilots can be led by women.

“I love giving back, so much was poured into my training and my life from mentors that I had, and I love seeing women come in and decide that I can be in aviation as well,” said McPherson.

While student Holly Hutchens, only one month into pilot school, is already planning a career as a commercial airline pilot.

“I think it’s great Tampa has so much diversity and I think it’s great that they are being supportive of women getting into aviation,” said Hutchens.

For tickets and information on the GALA click here.