COMMENTARY / GUEST EDITORIAL
Man, woman, young or old, follow your dreams
IN THE DAYS PRIOR TO World War II, aviation was defined by people
known as barnstormers, stunt pilots, or record-breakers. Many of
these daredevil pilots were women. Yes, women.
One of the most recognized groups of women pilots is the WASP
When I first stepped into the warbird community flying the
(Women Airforce Service Pilots), who were earlier this year awarded
the Congressional Gold Medal for their service during WWII.
Flying everything that the men flew, they are known for their grit
and determination. They did their job and did it well and often were
quoted as saying, “The airplane doesn’t know the sex of the pilot.”
Growing up on a farm, I had no aviation connections in my
family, but when I was offered a flight, and then a chance to take the
controls of an airplane, I did not hesitate. When I decided to pursue
a career in aviation, I realized my dreams through hard work and
determination…and also because of a friend and mentor, my husband,
Ed. Like my parents, Ed believed in me. If they believed, then who
was I to question? I went from flight attendant to B-767 captain—
flying more than a hundred different types of aircraft. Now that’s a
dream come true!
P- 51, one guy said to me, “You’ve ruined everything. Now people
will know that it’s not that difficult to
fly a Mustang if a girl can do it.” I wasn’t
offended. It spoke volumes when this
same guy later selected me first when
choosing pilots for a formation flight! I’ve
always been included as a pilot—nothing
more, nothing less. For that, I am grateful.
Whether I’m making an afternoon flight
in the J- 3 Cub, giving a Young Eagles ride,
flying the P-5 1, P- 47, T- 6, T- 34, B- 17, B- 25,
DC- 3, or flying passengers in a DC- 9, MD-
88, B-727, B-757, or B-767, I’m just a pilot—
thankful for the opportunity.
Flying a warbird has a bonus: the unique
opportunity to educate, preserve our
history, and honor our veterans as we keep
historic aircraft flying. Seeing a warbird
often prompts a dialogue between friends
and family members that might otherwise
have been lost forever.
When it comes to early aviation pioneers
like the WASP, Amelia Earhart, Jackie
Cochran, or the first female airline pilots, it
was their spirit and character that set them
apart. With an emphasis on opportunity
and mentoring, organizations such as EAA
and Women in Aviation International
promote these ideals, helping young women
realize their dreams. EAA AirVenture’s
Women Soar You Soar program is a great
example. No award I have received is more
meaningful to me than when a young
woman who is now an airline or military
pilot says, “Thank you. You inspired me
when aviation was just a dream for me.”
EAA members share a passion; aviation
is our spirit, camaraderie is our bond.
Friendships and opportunities for future
generations fuel the EAA passion.
Do you wish you could fly? Man, woman,
young or old—whether it is a career goal
or just for fun—it doesn’t matter. Take
the first step. Believe in yourself. Dare to
dream. Join those of us who are fortunate
to have “slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter-silvered
wings.” (From “High Flight,” by John
Connie flying a P- 51 at the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends in Columbus, Ohio.
Connie Bowlin, EAA 261289, is a retired Delta Airlines
captain. With more than 20,000 hours of flight time,
she is an avid warbird pilot and enthusiast. She also developed and coordinates the “Warbirds in Review” activities during AirVenture. For more information about Women
Soar You Soar, visit www.AirVenture.org/WomenSoar.