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PreFlight Aviation Camp – Preparing Girls to Take Off

News > PreFlight Aviation Camp – Preparing Girls to Take Off

With a looming pilot shortage, an extreme disparity in the number of male and female pilots, and the overall number of female pilots decreasing, now is a perfect time to build up the pilot workforce in America and abroad.

The annual International Women in Aviation conference in March did a wonderful job of celebrating women in the field and hosted a Girls in Aviation Day to inspire girls and give them guidance on becoming a pilot or other aviation professional. Recognizing how inspiring girls to fly is a critical component to bolster the pilot workforce, Liz Duca, airline pilot and former United States Air Force Senior Pilot, founded the PreFlight Aviation Camp. This 5-day summer camp provides an opportunity for girls to spend nearly a week experiencing aviation.

PreFlight Aviation Camp tackles the workforce problems by reaching out to young girls, ages 11-14 (a demographic that oftentimes isn’t exposed to aviation as a career option). PreFlight recognizes the urgent need to inform and inspire these girls during their early years, while they are still learning and discovering their interests. PreFlight’s goal is to help foster confidence and provide role models necessary for these girls to succeed, even if they don’t have an existing interest in aviation. Outside of camp, PreFlight counselors actively participate in outreach events throughout the year.

We spoke with Liz Duca, founder and president of PreFlight Aviation Camp, about her journey to becoming a pilot and how the camp came to be.

Q: Beyond being the founder and president of PreFlight, how else are you currently involved in aviation?

A: I am a former U.S. Air Force Senior Pilot and combat veteran, having served four tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. I am currently an A321 First Officer for Hawaiian Airlines.

Q: What inspired you to become a pilot?

A: I never grew up imagining that I would be a pilot. It was not until I met my friend Sommer in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) at Texas State University that I even considered it as a possibility. She had her private pilot certificate and was applying to the Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT). Through her achievements, I believed that I could become a pilot too. She was my role model, so the following year I applied to Air Force UPT and was selected. As they say, the rest is history.

Q: What was the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome being a female pilot?

A: Studies show that women in male-dominated career fields are more likely to hold themselves to a higher standard than their male peers, and having confidence in yourself plays such a big part in your performance. I definitely experienced that while going through Air Force pilot training, but the moment where that really changed for me was the first time I flew with a female instructor. There is something powerful about showing up for a flight and immediately identifying with the other pilot, something that is a rare occurrence for female aviators. I performed so well when I flew with her and those flights really gave me so much confidence moving forward in my training. Of course, I had great male instructors during my career as well, but there was just something different about having a woman, someone I could more closely identify with, teaching me to fly.

Q: How did you end up starting the PreFlight Aviation Camp?

A: It was a combination of many different experiences, but ultimately just wanting to use my skills as a female pilot to truly empower young girls. Marian Wright Edelman coined the phrase “You can’t be what you can’t see.” That phrase always resonated with me, especially because it is a reality for young girls seeking female role models in career fields like aviation. Only 6.7% of pilots are women. Only 4.3% of airline pilots are women. Those numbers have sat relatively stagnant over the past 10 years. If we want to see those numbers increase, then we need focused, dedicated outreach. Girls need to believe that becoming a pilot is an attainable goal, and when they interact with someone they can identify with (i.e., a female pilot), then they are more likely to see themselves in that role. That was the experience I wanted to create, so I began doing a lot of research, approached a group of incredible women I knew from the Air Force, and we worked together to make the idea of PreFlight into a reality.

Q: How does PreFlight Aviation Camp help to inspire young girls to join aviation?

A: PreFlight Aviation Camp is a 501(c)(3) non-profit summer camp for girls, 11-14, with the mission to transform beliefs about gender roles and inspire young girls to take off into their future. Through aviation, we connect camp activities to broader life lessons to build girls’ self-esteem, empower them to reach their goals, and inspire the next generation of pilots. We focus on the whole-person concept to provide a unique and transformative camp experience that changes their perception about what is attainable in life. Just like a pilot must perform a pre-flight check before they can fly the plane, our camp is a young girl’s pre-flight into aviation.

Q: What can you tell us about PreFlight Aviation Camp 2018?

A: PreFlight Aviation Camp is an overnight camp that will be held at Texas State University from June 26-30, 2018. This year we are excited to announce that we have partnered with LeTourneau University and one of their female Certified Flight Instructors will be flying a LeTourneau airplane to camp and take each PreFlight camper on a private discovery flight. The airplane flight is really the moment where everything taught at camp comes together, and the girls graduate from seeing to believing. We have more than doubled our camper enrollment for 2018, but girls can still submit applications until May 31 by visiting our application page. We also have camp scholarships available to campers with a financial need. If you would like to provide a tax-deductible contribution to support our camp scholarships, please visit our website and click the donate button.

Q: What is your connection to Gleim training materials?

A: My first experience with Gleim products was when I met Paul Duty at the Gleim Aviation booth at last year’s International Women Aviation conference. He was so supportive of PreFlight’s mission and organized to get Gleim tote bags and the “Learn to Fly” workbooks donated to camp. Both items fit perfectly into our flight plan lesson, where the campers create their own flight bags and fill it with all the necessary tools to depart on their flight plan towards becoming a pilot. Gleim Aviation is the leader in aviation training materials, and we love being able to recommend their products to our campers and their families.

Learn more about the PreFlight Aviation Camp.

About Gleim Aviation

Since 1980, the Gleim Aviation team of pilots, instructors, writers, designers, and programmers has helped aviators pass millions of FAA knowledge and practical tests using the unique Gleim Knowledge Transfer System. Gleim is an environmentally-friendly company headquartered in Gainesville, FL.

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