Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Incredible Aviators: Modern Amelia Earharts

The word "pioneer" exists to define those who plow fearlessly into new territory. It is the title owned by all in history who have trod a path of discovery, of new frontiers, of rare new lands and altitudes. It is a title that Amelia Earhart earned. Today, only 7% of the aviation industry's pilot seats are filled by women. Amelia got into the pilot's seat at a time when women had only had the right to vote in the United States for two years. She was the 16th woman in the world to be issued a pilot's license. Amelia was a brilliant woman and had been accepted to numerous college opportunities when she decided that she could not live her life out of the pilot's seat. She will forever be known as the first woman to make a transatlantic flight. In 1935, she joined Purdue University as a visiting faculty member in their aviation department in an effort to help counsel women and inspire all with her love of aviation.

LeTourneau University was founded by a similar pioneer. R.G. LeTourneau never saw a mountain that he couldn't build a machine to conquer. Like Amelia Earhart, LeTourneau was driven powerfully by his passion, his creativity, and his brilliance. A few minutes this past week with three LETU female aviation students and one female faculty member (who is an LETU alumna) brought forth those exact qualities. There is a unique spark among the women aviation majors at LeTourneau University. It's not a huge number, but the stats indicate that we exceed the national average in our program for percentage of females. 

If you spend a little time with them, you can't help but see the same drive that you read about in Amelia. It isn't a desire to prove themselves for the sake of being women. It is far bigger than that. It is completely independent of gender. It is based on no less than a radical passion and love for this unique industry. Betsy Bane dreams of managing the whole of DFW airport. Joy Cooper wants to be an air traffic controller and manage the traffic of our skies. Grace Peterson will combine her love of flight with missions work in the dream of becoming a missionary pilot. 

These three Amelia Earharts committed their lives to something they love. But they are not alone. They are mentored by an amazing coach who, like Amelia's later work, inspires through educating both men and women in the art and science of aviation. Becky Teerink is an LETU alumna who teaches in our aviation programs. She was awarded the 2012 Teacher of the Year award from the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM). Her three students speak of her with incredible admiration and respect. It is hard not to be in the presence of these women without leaving energized and excited. They just can't stop talking about airplanes, about flying, about tinkering with cowlings and ailerons, about the excitement of controlling the skies, of managing the complex workings of a machine and of an entire industry. 

There is no limitation to the dreams of LETU students. A short trip out to LeTourneau University's Abbott Aviation Center yields the next generation of Charles Lindberghs and Amelia Earharts. The Glaske Center for Engineering, Science and Technology is bursting at the seams with young aspiring R.G. LeTourneaus, Thomas Edisons, Marie Curies, and so many more. LeTourneau University is an incredible place. It is the rarified turf of pioneers. 

(Note: To read more about the dreams of these three LETU aviation students, click on their names in this story and you will be taken to a profile page on each one where they talk about their goals in the aviation industry.) 

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