Aviatrix Adversity Award to support women in aviation

Obtaining a helicopter pilot’s license is not an easy road. And even more so for female pilots who face particular obstacles in a male-dominated industry.

Helicopter Flight Services line pilot Cristina Gonzalez Odriozola flies a Bell 407GX high above Manhattan. Aviatrix Life Photo
Helicopter Flight Services line pilot Cristina Gonzalez Odriozola flies a Bell 407GX high above Manhattan. Aviatrix Life Photo
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With only a small percentage of pilots around the globe being women, the Aviatrix Life project has a mission to encourage women to never give up on training, and to demystify the lives of female pilots and the dangers of flying. The project aims to highlight the modern-day female in aviation through photography and stories, in hopes of inspiring other women to persevere in the helicopter/aviation industry.

The founder of Aviatrix Life told Vertical the project started around 2.5 years ago, after witnessing an incident with a female pilot at HAI Heli-Expo 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

“I saw one [male] sales rep for a very large helicopter company upon introduction to a female owner/operator look her from head to toe, and without a word, turn his head and walk away. That was pretty brutal,” said the project founder, who is also a commercial helicopter pilot and aviation photographer.

But the founder believes most misogyny in the industry today is left within the boardroom, and not necessarily the owners/operators or the flight schools. While it does still exist, the project aims to empower the voices of female pilots. “It’s really not about me, it’s about the women . . . I just let the project speak for itself.”

Not only is the Aviatrix Life project about helping women to overcome life obstacles and misogyny in the industry, it’s about breaking the stigma that flying is too dangerous for females. Aviatrix Life Photo

As a new project development, the founder is hoping to gain sponsorship for a scholarship, the Aviatrix Adversity Award, which would be awarded to a female commercial student who has successfully completed her private license and wishes to continue her career path, despite going through tremendous personal adversity.

The goal for the scholarship is to be in the range of $5,000 to $10,000, of which the Aviatrix Life organization would take $0.

“The reason I created [the scholarship] is because there are so many people out there who run into things in life or in training, and they end up not being able to finish . . . Even something like a baby can take you out of circulation for a year,” Aviatrix Life’s founder said.

But it’s not only life obstacles or misogyny that may stop females from entering into or continuing their path in the industry, it’s the stigma behind flying that it’s too dangerous for women or young girls, the founder said.

“It’s also about breaking that barrier, especially for women, because the young girls tend to be protected [by parents] from being a pilot. . . . [We want] to try and seriously demystify the dangers of it, and tell the stories of hope, perseverance, happiness and pride – and really illuminate what this aviation life does for a lot of us.”

Helicopter pilots Autumn Cabaniss (left) and Melissa Winterborn (right) lean against a Bell 407 sitting on a helicopter dolly. Aviatrix Life Photo
Helicopter pilots Autumn Cabaniss (left) and Melissa Winterborn (right) lean against a Bell 407 sitting on a helicopter dolly. Aviatrix Life Photo

The Aviatrix Life project has received remarkable feedback thus far, using social media to showcase positive messages and share women’s stories of ups and downs in the industry – reminding pilots to keep going.

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“I think that [persevering] personality makes for a very good pilot because someone who’s not willing to quit on their training is also someone who’s not willing to quit in an emergency (or give up on their passengers if something bad does happen),” the founder said.

Once the scholarship has received sponsorship and is in full motion, any female pilot-in-training will be encouraged to submit a 60-second application video, sharing who they are, their adversities throughout training and why they didn’t give up.

Aviatrix Life’s founder said the organization will select five female professionals in aviation to choose the winner of the scholarship, once it has been developed.

"I think that [persevering] personality makes for a very good pilot...
“I think that [persevering] personality makes for a very good pilot…” said the Aviatrix Life founder. Here, Cristina Gonzalez Odriozola flies an Airbus EC130 T2 operated by Helicopter Flight Services in New York City. Aviatrix Life Photo
The goal is to have the application and judging process completed by HAI Heli-Expo 2019, as the winner would ideally be announced at the show.

To learn more about the Aviatrix Life project or to share your own story, click here; or visit the organization’s Instagram page @aviatrixlife.

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