Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Celebrated at Annual Event

OKLAHOMA CITY (December 9, 2022) – The aviation and aerospace industry, alongside Gigi Coleman, the great-niece of legendary aviator Bessie Coleman, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, Tulsa International Airport, Spirit AeroSystems and the Oklahoma Air and Space Forces Association, celebrated the state’s sixth annual Oklahoma Women in Aviation & Aerospace Day on Friday, December 9.

The annual Oklahoma Women in Aviation & Aerospace (OKWIAA) 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. The event honored guest Gigi Coleman, the great-niece of Bessie Coleman. Bessie Coleman was honored in memoriam as the Women of the Year by OKWIAA. Keynote speakers included Capt. Deborah Hecker and Capt. Beth Powell, both of American Airlines.  

A century ago, the State’s earliest true municipal airport appeared in 1920 on land leased to Oklahoma City. Only a year earlier, Tulsa's first private airport was founded by former military barnstormer and New Zealand native Duncan McIntyre. Oklahoma is considered an aerospace and aviation powerhouse, with 108 public-use airports supporting a $44B annual economic impact generated by 1,100 aviation and aerospace companies.

Women are leading this charge developing strategies and formulating plans that will propel the nation  through current challenges and position the United States - and the world - for a future of opportunities beyond earth’s boundaries.  Today women are represented in all sectors of our industry - from commercial airports to military installations to the growing space sector. Women are turning wrenches, engineering avionics, piloting rockets, and some are leading us into this century’s most consequential transportation development – commercial space flight.

The forum, reserved for Aviation and Aerospace enthusiasts and personnel, provided an opportunity to learn more about Aviation and Aerospace to encourage Oklahomans to dream big and find their passion in this exciting industry. 

The history of Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day began in 2017 when the Aeronautics Commission presented a bill to the Oklahoma legislature, and it was enacted into law, to officially recognize the contribution of Oklahoma women in the State’s aviation and aerospace industry, on December 9th, annually.

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 September 12, 1929, the same year that Amelia Earhart established the female pilot group, the Ninety-Nines.

Prior to the main event, a six-person panel brought together top aviation and aerospace industry leaders to discuss their climbs in their respective careers while addressing current concerns and hurdles facing sustainable aviation growth. The panel included Col. Robin M. Cavanaugh, Vice Commander of the 138th Fighter Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard; Dr. Brenda Rolls, Frontier Electronics, Stillwater; Rebecca Pettenski, Project Manager at L3 Harris, Tulsa;  Lt. Col. Jaclyn McCormick, Tinker Air Force Base; Kathryn Plunkett, Production Supervisor, Engine & APU, American Airlines; and Robin Hadfield, President, Ninety-Nines International. The panel was attended by 400 people including students and military personnel and it was moderated by Capt. SueAnn Alexander, Delta Airlines, Tulsa.

The Oklahoma Airport Operator Association, 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 Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell during the event.

The 2022 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 Capt. Jane Morris, Lt. Janet Jo Tompkins, and Teresa Camp, respectively.

The next event will be held in December of 2023 in Oklahoma City. 

Watch the recorded presentation of the event here.