WATCH: Steve Wilson Celebrates Women’s History Month at 35th Annual Women in Aviation International Conference

By  //  March 25, 2024

Held in Orlando, Promotes Women in Aviation

WATCH: Steve Wilson attended the 35th Annual Women in Aviation International Conference at the Orlando Marriott World Center, March 21-23. Thousands of people attended the conference, representing the military service academies, and the public and private sectors.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – March is Women’s History Month, and last week I had the opportunity to attend the 35th Annual Women in Aviation International Conference at the Orlando Marriott World Center and met some of the most amazing women I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

The Women in Aviation International Conference is the largest organization in the world dedicated to increasing the number of women involved in all aspects of aviation and aerospace.

There were organizations at the conference representing the military service academies, and the private and public sectors. Over 200 exhibitors were scattered over two Exhibit Halls.

WATCH: Steve Wilson attended the 35th Annual Women in Aviation International Conference at the Orlando Marriott World Center, March 21-23. Thousands of people attended the conference, representing the military service academies, and the public and private sectors.

There were thousands of women attending the conference. Some have made history, and some will.

The overriding theme of the conference was to promote women in aviation.

Delta Air Lines Pilot Leah Hetzel told me, “For me it’s really special to reach out to young girls and let them know that this is a really awesome and attainable career goal.” She went on to say, “Delta plays a role in this by sponsoring a lot of women in aviation events. They had a team of five of us Delta pilots helping at ‘Girls in Aviation Day,’ which is held each year on the Saturday of the conference.”

Col. Jennifer Aupke (Ret), USAF, attended the conference representing Women Military Aviators. Their organization was founded in 1982, and as Aupke told me, it is designed to carry on the tradition and hard work of the WASP (Women Air Service Pilots).

Aupke said, “We want to preserve the legacy, built off of who those women were in the 1980s.” She continued by saying, they “did a lot of the combat exclusion work to get us to being able to fly all of the jets in the services.”

The Friday Night Locker Room’s Steve Wilson, left, and Col. Jennifer Aupke (Ret), USAF, at the 35th Annual Women in Aviation International Conference at the Orlando Marriott World Center. Col. Aupke was attending the conference, representing Women Military Aviators.

Col. Liz Ruth (Ret), USAF, representing NASA Aeronautics, made quite an impression on me. She is a NASA Research Pilot and is the only woman to fly the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which is the largest flying observatory in the world. Ruth has flown for the USAF, flying Boeing T-43 and Northrop T-38 Talon.

I enjoyed talking with Gavin Velie with Embraer. Velie is a Senior Talent Acquisition Recruiter and works out of Melbourne, Florida. I asked Velie to tell me about Embraer.

He said, we are a “Brazilian based aircraft manufacturing company. We have different sectors of business, commercial aviation, defense, executive aviation and now working our way into eVTOL’s.”

It was a busy, but fun, three days for me. I had the opportunity to interview the following persons:

DAY 1 INTERVIEWS

■ Kathleen Creedy, Freelance Aviation Journalist

■ LCDR Colleen Conley, NOAA Corps Officer

■ Kim Barwick, Whirly Girls International

■ Gavin Velie, Embraer

■ Jennifer Aupke, COL (Ret) USAF, Women Military Aviators

■ Liz Ruth, NASA Research Pilot, NASA Aeronautics

DAY 2 INTERVIEWS

■ Leah Hetzel, Delta Air Lines Pilot

■ Ella Szucs, Auburn University School of Aviation

■ Gabby Kubinyi, Mercy Medical Angels

■ Doreen Cappelaere, Wings for Val Foundation

■ Parker Northrup, Embry-Riddle, Flight Department, Chair

Overall, it was a wonderful conference that will not only benefit women, but all of us. I, for one, am already looking forward to next year’s conference in Denver, Colorado!

Col. Liz Ruth (Ret), USAF, (pictured), representing NASA Aeronautics, is a NASA Research Pilot and is the only woman to fly the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which is the largest flying observatory in the world. Ruth has flown for the USAF, flying Boeing T-43 and Northrop T-38 Talon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Steve Wilson moved to Brevard County in 1984 and has been a partner, along with Orville Susong, for the past 24 years with the Friday Night Locker Room, a broadcasting team that covers and reports on a wide variety of local events that are of significance to the residents of the Space Coast and beyond. Their mission is to promote youth sports and the space industry, support first responders and law enforcement personnel, and showcase community and charitable events that are produced by our nonprofit partners in central Florida.

Steve Wilson was born in DeRidder, Louisiana and grew up in both New Orleans and Macon, Georgia.  He moved to Brevard County in 1984 and retired from local government as the Community Advocate/Assistant to the City Manager with the City of Rockledge in 2018.

Among the awards and accolades Steve has received over the years are 15 + year Rockledge Little League volunteer, Brevard Public School Jefferson Award Recipient, Rockledge High School Raider Booster Award 2001, 2006, City of Rockledge Employee of the Year 2006, Rockledge Kiwanian of the Year 2006-2007, City of Rockledge Quality Public Service Award 2008, 2012, 2017, Rockledge Kiwanis Citizen of the Year 2012-2013, Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame – Sportscasting 2015, Rockledge High School Leadership and Service Award 2016, Central Florida Humanitarian Award 2017, Space Coast Inspiration Award – 2018,  Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame – Lifetime Achievement – 2020, Ecofest Achievement Award – 2022, Quality Floridian Award – 2022, presented by U.S. Congressman Bill Posey.

Wilson is especially proud of his chairing two fundraisers in support of pediatric cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation in honor of Merritt Island resident Julie Spurlock that raised over $25,000.00.

He has been a partner, along with Orville Susong, for the past 24 years with the Friday Night Locker Room, a broadcasting team that covers and reports on a wide variety of local events that are of significance to the residents of the Space Coast and beyond. Their mission is to promote youth sports, support first responders and law enforcement personnel, and showcase community and charitable events that are produced by our nonprofit partners in central Florida.

The Friday Night Locker Room has awarded hundreds of sports achievement plaques to Brevard County student-athletes over the years. They have also awarded more than $18,000 in academic scholarships to Brevard County high school seniors.

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