In late 2009, airline transport rated pilot Mireille Goyer was searching for events celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first female pilot license earned worldwide by Raymonde de Laroche on March 8, 1910. To her dismay, she found none. Determined to not let this important milestone for women pilots go unrecognized, Mireille launched Fly It Forward™, a global campaign designed to honor the pioneers by inspiring the next generation of women aviators.
“I thought that the female pioneers that opened doors for all of us would be disappointed to see our lack of progress (0% to barely 6% in 100 years) and that the best way to celebrate them was to have a positive impact on female population growth, thus the idea to encourage pilots to pay specific attention to introducing girls to flying,” Mireille told Runway Girl Network, an innovative, airline passenger experience news site founded by aviation journalist Mary Kirby that highlights the work and accomplishments of women in aviation.
As a result of Mireille’s very first campaign, a grassroots call-to-action for all pilots to give girls and women their first flight experience in a small aircraft, over 1,600 girls and women discovered the joys of flying in thirty six countries on four continents.
Fly It Forward™ has since become one of the main features of Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week, a subsequent initiative Mireille founded in 2011 to further her mission. The week-long celebration is hosted every year around the historic date of March 8th, and is marked by women-centric events held at airports and aerodromes around the world, as well as in museums and aerospace businesses.
The goal is to encourage girls and women to consider aviation as a hobby or a career and improve gender balance in the industry, thereby countering the perception that the air and space fields are reserved for men. Just to give you some perspective on why this is important, at the end of 2013, just 5% of all commercial pilots were females.
“I thought that the female pioneers that opened doors for all of us would be disappointed to see our lack of progress (0% to barely 6% in 100 years) and that the best way to celebrate them was to have a positive impact on female population growth…”
Thanks to Mireille’s efforts, over the last five years, pilots from 37 countries on five continents have given free first flight experiences to nearly 10,000 girls and women (one fifth of the estimated female pilot population worldwide) and welcomed 40,000 more to aviation facilities.
But the initiative is not restricted to women pilots. As Mireille explained, “Two-thirds of the Fly It Forward pilots are male. I personally think that men that Fly It Forward are as pioneering as women opening the doors as they too, take on social pressure to behave differently than expected.”
In 2015, the 6th Annual Fly It Forward™ challenge will have a special twist, celebrating 100 years of female pilots in combat, women who have served and those who are serving today. Pilots participating will be asked to invite non-flying female military personnel and their daughters to experience flight in a small aircraft during Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week (March 2-8, 2015).
“Women have never hesitated to lay down their lives for their countries,” said Mireille. “During WWI, Marie Marvingt heroically flew over a German military base in occupied territory to bomb it and, in doing so, became the first woman to fly in combat, worldwide.” So the special theme of Fly It Forward™ 2015 will give today’s pilots a chance to honor these brave and remarkable women (past and present).
Watch Madeline Fly
The video below is from March 2013, and features first time flyer Madeline, and volunteer Fly It Forward™ pilot Janet, who has “flown it forward” every year since 2010 in her C150. This footage was caught on a GoPro camera that Madeline’s uncle installed in the cockpit before her flight… and it is priceless!