A proud and happy all-female Delta flight crew lit up the skies earlier this week, flying 120 female students from Salt Lake City to NASA in Houston for tours of the facilities and to meet with female leaders in the industry.
The flight was part of the airline's Women Inspiring our Next Generation (WING) program, which was created in 2015 to help close the gender gap in aviation and expose more young girls to STEM careers. This is the fifth WING flight, with more than 600 female students flying Delta so far through the program.
The flight was planned and executed completely by women, including pilots, ramp agents, gate agents and flight control.
"We know representation matters. At Delta, we believe you have to see it to be it," said Beth Poole, general manager of pilot development, who helped start Delta's WING initiative, in a statement. "We're taking ownership to improve gender diversity by exposing girls at a young age and providing a pipeline so that 10 years from now, they will be the pilots in the Delta cockpit inspiring generations of women who follow."
While the students, who ranged in age from 12 to 18, were in Houston, they met with female mentors in aviation, including NASA astronaut and aerospace engineer Jeanette Epps. They toured NASA's Mission Control Center, Johnson Space Center and other key facilities in areas of flight and space exploration.
"It didn't seem realistic to go after a career in aviation, but today I realized, 'Hey, I can do this too,'" said Katelyn J., age 17, a 12th grader from Advanced Learning Center.
Delta, which achieved 100% pay parity for employees in frontline jobs, says it's on par with the aviation industry with about 5% pilots who are women. In the past four years, 7.4% of the airline's newly hired pilots have been women. The WING program is one of the ways they're hoping to increase those numbers.
"I've loved being able to look at all of the things these successful women have accomplished," said Shanae C., 17, a 12th grader from Jordan Technical Institute. "I think we will learn from them and build on their foundation of success."