By Sarah Hall
Encouraging girls to (quite literally) aim high was the goal of the first Girl Scouts of Manitou Council Aviation Day on October 26 at Sheboygan County Airport’s Aviation Heritage Center.
“My dream is to be the first woman on Mars,” said Lillian Pociask, 10, of Kohler. “The universe is the limit!” added an ebullient Fynley Bouck, 11, also of Kohler, as she leapt upward for emphasis.
They were two of 125 Junior and Cadette Girl Scouts who visited eight different indoor and outdoor stations where they learned about flight safety and mechanics, hot air balloons, gliders, careers in the military and elsewhere, air traffic control, aerodynamics (via paper airplane design) and more. In the process, they earned their aviation badges. One of the most captivating stations allowed them to walk into and explore the inside of an inflated hot air balloon.
The Wisconsin Ninety-Nines – the state chapter of an international organization of licensed female pilots who support opportunities for women to advance in flight – sponsored the event. For the past year, Aviation Heritage Center Director of Education and pilot Bridgett Nottestad Neu of Plymouth, Envoy Airlines commercial pilot Tina Hartlaub of Madison and Young Eagles pilot, ground instructor and STEM educator Laurie Probst of Sheboygan Falls have been coordinating the hands-on learning sessions offered during the three-hour event. Nearly all of the presenters were women.
“The whole idea was to spark that flame in their minds … that they could fly an airplane or hot air balloon, or be otherwise involved in aviation,” said Kathy Lester-Ross of Kansasville, Chair of the Wisconsin Ninety-Nines, hot air balloon pilot and instructor for the hot air balloon session.
Airframe and powerplant mechanic Kimberly Galuska of Abrams noted, “I’ve been in aviation since I graduated from high school. I wanted to get them excited about aviation maintenance and let them know this isn’t a man’s field alone.”
“Just exposing them to something different from the ordinary girl things helps build their confidence and expands their horizons,” said Teresa McAlpine, a troop leader from Oostburg who was there with her daughter Sabrina and other scouts.
“We wanted to provide an opportunity for the girls to explore aviation, since it’s still a male-dominated career field, and we hope to do this again,” noted Nottestad Neu. While the Aviation Heritage Center has offered similar programs for other youth groups in the past, this is the first time such an event was designed for girls alone.
The Aviation Heritage Center of Wisconsin is a free museum offering guests a close-up look at aircraft history and operations, against the backdrop of one of the busiest private airports in the state. To learn more, visit the center’s website at www.ahcw.org.