Quad Cities girls get to see ‘coolest’ jobs in aviation

Girls in Aviation
Girls line up to operate a drone simulator during the Girls in Aviation Day on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Quad Cities International Airport. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

Hundreds of girls got a look at some jobs in the aviation field on Saturday, Sept. 24.

They also got to look over real aircraft, take numerous pretend flights on flight simulator machines and talk to women who have various  jobs in aviation fields. This all took place during the second annual Girls in Aviation Day on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the cargo facility at the Quad Cities International Airport (QCIA) in Moline.

Girls in Aviation
Lt. Gabrielle Cole of the Illinois Army National Guard talks about her job as a helicopter pilot during the Girls in Aviation Day on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Quad Cities International Airport. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

The event, which attracted more than 300 people, brought in exhibits and speakers as a way to get girls interested in a career in aviation.

Girls in Aviation Day is needed because fewer than 10% of pilots, maintenance workers and airline executives are women, according to the Women in Aviation International organization. 

Ashleigh Davis, the QCIA’s public relations and marketing director, and a lead organizer of Girls in Aviation Day, said she hopes Saturday’s event will inspire the young girls who listened to the speakers and others at the event.

“The people here today love what they do and love talking about what they do,” Ms. Davis added.

Even if girls don’t want to become pilots, there are many other aviation-related careers to  consider. Some of them, Ms. Davis said, include drone operators, weather forecasting and airport marketing.

On Saturday, the two main speakers shared their experiences as helicopter pilots with the Illinois Army National Guard’s 106th Aviation Regiment in Peoria, Illinois. Lt. Gabriel Cole and Capt. Alix Johnopolos are two of only six female helicopter pilots with the Illinois Army National Guard.

Both told the crowd that becoming a helicopter pilot is tough work, but it has been a great experience.

Girls in Aviation
Girls look over an Illinois Army National Guard helicopter during the Girls in Aviation Day on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Quad Cities International Airport. CREDIT DAVE THOMPSON

“When I got the opportunity to see a Black Hawk (helicopter), I thought that was the coolest job ever,” said Capt. Johnopolos.

Lt. Cole added that becoming a helicopter pilot was a “bit of a terrifying experience, but an exciting experience.”

The day also included exhibit tables from business, military and education representatives. Some of them included: Deere & Co., Elliott Aviation, QCIA’s Public Safety Department, Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force, Illinois Army National Guard, U.S. Marines, Iowa Lakes Community College, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 75 Quad Cities, Quad Cities Aero, QCIA Airport Services LLC, National Weather Service Quad Cities, Envoy Air Inc., ABLEd (John Deere employee resource group), and REVV Aviation. 

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