Fast Forward Spotlight: Women in Aviation International

Close-up of a female pilot in a cockpit, looking over her shoulder. The control panel can be seen.

Interested in aviation? Here’s an amazing fact students need to know:

Since the 1990s, the group Women in Aviation International (WAI) has awarded over $10 million in college scholarships to young people pursuing careers in the aviation industry. In fact, in 2015 alone WAI will award around $650,000 through over 100 different scholarship opportunities.

That’s a lot of college moolah.

It isn’t just scholarship opportunities that make WAI worthy of note. Women in Aviation International is an organization with a mission to provide education, support, and encouragement for women who are interested in aviation and aviation careers. Since it was founded, WAI has grown from about 500 to over 12,000 members worldwide. There are now 98 WAI chapters across the globe, most of which are in the United States. About half of WAI’s chapters are located at college and university campuses offering aviation degree programs.

We caught up with Peggy Chabrian, Ph.D., WAI’s founder, to learn more about WAI, and to find out why becoming a member might be beneficial to students.

Screenshot image taken from our interview with Peggy Chambrian.

Click a Button to watch an interview with Peggy Chabrian:

Chabrian is a certified commercial pilot and flight instructor. She also teaches aviation courses at the university level. She told Fast Forward that WAI originally began as a one-time conference. The idea was to provide a space for women in the aviation sector to meet, network, and exchange ideas. The first conference was held during Women’s History Month in March of 1990. But as word spread, the requests for a second conference came pouring in. Thirty-six annual conferences later, this year’s conference is expected to draw over 5,000 people.

Participants at the WAI conference are invited to attend a number of aviation-themed events, like listening to keynote speakers, attending an industry trade show, and even networking with aviation professionals in a job fair-type atmosphere. The annual conference is also when WAI awards its members with scholarships.

Recently, WAI also began hosting an event called Girls in Aviation Day, which occurs each March during the annual conference. During this event, WAI chapters across the globe host students ages 7 to 19 years, with activities ranging from airport tours to flight simulator instruction. The event is open to all WAI members.

Students who want to know more about WAI, including how to become a member, should pay a visit to the website, at, Chabrian said.

“You can go to our website and find the list of the chapters we have and where they’re located. There’s also a contact name, phone number, and email address if you want to get in touch with a local chapter to find out where they meet, what time, things like that.”

There’s a ton of additional resources and information to be found on the website, too, like the WAI magazine. There’s even information on WAI’s mentoring program, which is available to all members.

“We have members who are willing to help you, and to answer your questions,” Chabrian said. “If you’re thinking about going into a particular field of aviation, you can scroll down the list and look for someone who works in the career that you’re interested in. Drop them an email, send them a note, and they are more than happy to answer your questions.”

It all boils down to one thing: if you’re considering a career in aviation, you’ve got to check out WAI.

“Look for a Women in Aviation chapter, network with other young people interested in what you’re interested in, and find out more about the scholarships that are out there,” Chabrian said.

Aaron Mack
Fast Forward: Volume 2 Issue 7 - Aviation