Inspiring Women in Aerospace
This International Women’s Day I thought I’d write about women that have inspired me within the aerospace industry.
These women have pioneered, inspired and fearlessly lead the way for the women of today.
Amelia Earhart - First Woman to fly solo cross the Atlantic
When taking about female aviators, Amelia Earhart is one of the first people to come to mind. She was the 16th woman to earn a pilot license and was the first woman to fly across North America and solo across the Atlantic. She later attempted to fly the longest route around the world and on her second attempt disappeared. What fearless determination and courage to venture into something that then was vastly unknown.
These are but a few of the women in history and out there today inspiring and paving the way for our generations and the generations to come. Thank you to all of the strong, fearless women who are role models for the children of today.
Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson
I’m embarrassed to admit that before I saw the film, Hidden Figures, I had never heard of these three women. They were instrumental in the success of the Space Race between The Soviet Union and USA for dominance in spaceflight capability. Not only that, it was also a time where they had to overcome gender and racial barriers which helped pave the way for the generations after them.
Katherine Johnson- NASA research Mathematition who’s trajectory and launch window calculations were critical to the success of the May 5, 1961 space flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space and John Glenn’s orbital mission in 1962.
Mary Jackson - 1958, became NASA's first black female engineer
Dorothy Vaughn - 1949, First black supervisor at NASA
Amelia Earhart - First Woman to fly solo cross the Atlantic
Kirsty Murphy - First and only Female Red Arrows Pilot
I could just stop there but no, Kirsty’s inspiring career is too good not to be told. Starting early, by the age of 16 Kirsty already had 15 flying hours under her belt, inspired by her father who was a navigator on the Tornado.
She went on to study aeronautical engineering at Imperial College London and joined the RAF as a pilot officer after gaining her Masters. Throughout her career she flew the Hawk T1, the Tornado and then in 2009 she became the first female to be selected to fly with the RAF Red Arrows .
After a final three year posting on promotion within the Flying Training Headquarters, Kirsty left the RAF in 2015. Now she flies for the Blades aerobatic team as Blade 3!
Jo Salter - First Female RAF Fast Jet Pilot
Another RAF legend is Jo Salter, the first female fast jet pilot in the RAF. Shortly after joining at 18 as an Engineering Officer, the government announced that women were now allowed to fly fast jets in 1992. She swiftly took up training and earned her wings going on to join 617 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth in 1994 as a Flight Lieutenant, and was declared combat ready by 1995. Jo was the first woman to be an operational Tornado pilot. Leaving the RAF in 2000 but still has gone on to give motivational talks, and is inspiring younger generations through teaching ATC and University Air Squadron cadets on the weekends.
Melanie Astles - First Female Red Bull Air Race Pilot.
What is cooler that being a pilot? Being a Red Bull Air Race Pilot. Melanie is making history by being the first women to ever compete in the RBAR. She’s also a 5 times French aerobatics champion and finished several times in the top ten World and European championships.
She left school at 18, took a job in a petrol station and kept working and saving until she became a manager of several locations and had saved enough money to pay for flying lessons. Anything is possible if you want it enough!
Lauren Wilson - UK British Female Aerobatic Champion and Display Pilot
Lauren inspired me to pursue my dreams of gaining an aerobatic licese, it is her motivation, passion and knowledge which is why she’s on my list of inspirational women. Not only is she a bad ass aerobatics pilot, if you follow Lauren on twitter or instagram you’ll also see she is an engineer so fixes her own aircraft too. You don’t get to where Lauren is today without true dedication to the cause.
Air Vice Marshall Sue Gray - First Female 3 Star Officer
You may not have heard of Sue, but you should have. Sue is the first female three-star officer and the most senior woman to have served in Britain’s armed forces.
She began her RAF career in 1985 as an engineering officer. Since then she has worked in a variety of roles on VC10 Transport aircraft, the Joint Helicopter Force deploying on both Gulf Wars and more recently leading the department delivering engineering and logistics support for fighter, training and Remotely Piloted aircraft for all the Armed Services.
She has now been promoted to Air Marshal and is to become director-general of the Defence Safety Authority, which investigates military accidents.
She has not only paved the way for women in engineering but also proven there is nothing to stop you from reaching the top in a world where only 10% of regular military personnel are women.
Helen Sharman - First Briton in Space
May 1991 - At the age of just 27 Helen Sharman became the first British Astronaut when she travelled out on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to spend 8 days serving as a crew member on the Russian Mir space station.
Helen was born in Sheffield and attended local schools before reading Chemistry at the University of Sheffield. After University, whilst working as a research technologist for Mars working on ice cream, she heard the advert inviting people to apply to be an astronaut on the radio. “I decided to give it a go.” She beat 13000 other applicants to become the first Briton in space.
“When it comes to being an astronaut I’d say just give it a go. I almost decided not to apply for the Mission, and if I hadn’t just given it a try, I wouldn’t have been into space at all.”