Keynote address provided by Astronaut and Aviation Pioneer Wally Funk
OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 5, 2021) – The aviation and aerospace industry, alongside Astronaut Wally Funk, Oklahoma Airport Operators Association, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission and the Oklahoma Chapter of Ninety-Nines (99s), celebrated the state’s fifth annual Oklahoma Women in Aviation & Aerospace Day on Friday, Nov. 5.
The annual Oklahoma Women in Aviation & Aerospace Day provides an opportunity for individuals to learn more about how Oklahomans may advocate on behalf of aviation and aerospace for young girls and women to pursue aviation.
“As Oklahoma's second-largest and fastest-growing industry, aviation has a significant impact on the lives of our citizens,” Oklahoma State Director of Aeronautics Grayson Ardies said. “This annual event is a unique opportunity to gather Oklahoma military, aerospace companies, private and commercial pilots, airport managers, municipal officials, drone pilots, educators, flying clubs and the many users of the Oklahoma Airport System to discuss Oklahoma’s strong aviation heritage and how the industry continues to solidify our state as a worldwide leader in aviation, aerospace and defense.”
American aviator and space tourist Wally Funk provided the keynote at the luncheon. Funk was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector, as well as one of the Mercury 13. Funk became the oldest woman to go to space on July 20, 2021, at age 82, as part of Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft during its suborbital flight.
The history of Oklahoma Women in Aviation & Aerospace Day began in 2017 when the Oklahoma legislature passed Senate Bill 230 to officially recognize the contribution of Oklahoma women in the state’s aviation and aerospace industry annually on Dec. 9. Former Governor Mary Fallin signed the bill into law going into effect Nov. 1 that same year.
“We could not have been more thrilled to welcome Wally Funk and the 99s to our great state to celebrate the contributions of women throughout history in the aviation industry,” Event Chair Sandra Shelton said. “Today, women are represented in all sectors of our industry from commercial airports to military installations and our event is dedicated to recognizing these achievements and paving the way for future innovations led by women in the field.”
The date marks the birth of the famous Chickasaw aviator, Pearl Carter Scott, of Marlow, Oklahoma. Scott learned to fly at the age of 13 under legendary aviator Wiley Post. She became the youngest pilot in the United States with her first solo flight on Sept. 12, 1929, the same year that Amelia Earhart established the female pilot group, the 99s.
The OAOA, in partnership with the Oklahoma Chapter of Ninety-Nines, honored three Oklahoma women making important contributions to aviation and aerospace at the event. The three award winners were announced by Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt.
The 2021 Outstanding Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Award honorees for the Pearl Carter Scott Oklahoma General Aviation Distinguished Service Award, Geraldyn M. Cobb Oklahoma Military Aviation Distinguished Service Award and Dr. Shannon Lucid Oklahoma Aerospace Distinguished Service Award are Wyvema Startz, Colonel Abigail Ruscetta and Tonya Blansett, respectively.
“Oklahoma Airport Operators Association is proud to stand alongside our industry colleagues to recognize the contributions of women in aviation and particularly the women who play a role in leading our state’s airports,” Tulsa International Airport CEO and OAOA Vice President Alexis Higgins said. “We celebrate their success and are committed to making aviation and aerospace careers accessible to young women just beginning to explore their future in our industry.”