Delta Air Lines will operate a charter flight staffed by women for girls from Atlanta-area community groups and schools, part of an effort to boost interest in aviation among a cohort that represents a small fraction of the industry.
Women make up less than 6.4 percent of the commercial pilot workforce, and an even smaller share of airline mechanics, flight engineers and dispatchers, according to industry group Airlines for America.
Females also still make up a small portion of pilots at Delta, but that still amounts to more than 500 females among more than 14,000 pilots.
"The female pilots will still tell us, people still stop them" on the plane or on the concourse. Those people say "'I just had no idea women could be a pilot.' They still get that a lot today."
The Delta charter flight taking off Saturday morning from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to Pensacola is the company's third annual Girls in Aviation Day flight, and its first from Atlanta. Other carriers including UPS Airlines, American, United and Southwest also sponsor or support nonprofit Women in Aviation International's Girls in Aviation Day.
Passengers on the Delta flight will include about 120 girls ages 12 to 18 from metro Atlanta schools Conyers Middle, Kindezi and Drew Charter, and from the Candler Field Museum youth program and Women in Aviation's Gone with the Wind chapter based in Atlanta.
All of the Delta employees involved in the flight -- including dispatchers, gate agents, ticket counter agents, baggage handlers, charter coordinators, pilots. mechanics and flight attendants -- will be women.
In aviation, "everybody thinks you gotta be a pilot or a flight attendant, but there’s a lot of other options to them," said Beth Poole, organizer of the event and general manager of pilot development at Delta.
With first officer Crystal Barrois, who is pregnant, "the girls will actually see you can have a family, you can be pregnant and be a pilot," Poole said.
Also on the flight will be Delta's first female pilot, Joy Walker, who is retired after nearly 30 years of flying.
For many of the girls, it will be their first flight. In Pensacola, the girls will visit the National Flight Academy where they will learn about the forces of flight and how to fly a drone, track drones and fly on flight simulators. They will also meet Corrie Mays, a female Blue Angel pilot, and visit the National Naval Aviation Museum.