See how WAI-SE WI Chapter, MKE, and AWA inspired future female pilots through a hands-on aviation event
On Saturday September 24th, an eager group of almost 50 girls woke up with a little extra energy to get to the airport where the fall Milwaukee air would soon be filled with the smell of jet fuel and the sounds of questions would be bouncing off the flight deck. It was Girls in Aviation Day.
Girls in Aviation Day is a free event for girls ages 12-18 and is put on by the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter of Women in Aviation, hosted by the Milwaukee Mitchell Airport, and supported by us (Air Wisconsin Airlines). This event gave the youth a chance to talk with aviation professionals, learn more about different careers in aviation, and of course get to test out the view from the left seat. This experience offers a behind-the-scenes look at the airport and airport operations, as well as asking real-time questions to women already in the industry.
“I witnessed the excitement and the energy of the girls gathered inside the airport, flying airplane simulators, exploring potential aviation careers, and talking with mentors. Potential aviatrices were eagerly asking questions, but once inside the aircraft, and especially sitting in the pilot seats, the questions were replaced with wide eyes and big smiles,” said Evan McMillen, Assistant Chief Pilot of Air Wisconsin Airlines, “What an amazing and uncommon opportunity for young women to explore a world that has mostly been male dominated, and to discover that a career in aviation is within their reach!”
Aside from the benefit of this event to the aviation community, it also brought joy to the our Domicile city of Milwaukee as well as most of the youth attending were from many local schools in the Milwaukee area. Mandi Neumann, Flight Attendant for Air Wisconsin Airlines, said “We were able to show the girls airport operations, have them fly flight simulators, and tour a Jet Out TBM and an Air Wisconsin CRJ-200. We also had representatives from the 128th Air Refueling Wing. The girls were very excited that they were able to sit in the flight deck of the CRJ-200 where they got to have their picture taken in the captain’s seat.” Mandi made note that one girl even exclaimed,
“This is so cool! I didn’t think I would actually get to see where the pilots fly the airplane!”
Not only did they get to see the cockpit of the aircraft, another Air Wisconsin flight attendant named Hope Frank was able to show the girls the cabin and the galley while Mandi led the tour of the flight deck.
Mandi is also the membership chair of the Southeastern WI chapter of WAI and said “Our chapter has at least two of these outreach events each year. I think it’s important to be involved in the community. A lot of the girls at this event had never been on an airplane before. This event gave them the opportunity to see that there are many career opportunities in aviation that they may not have considered before.”
We are honored to be able to help represent the commercial aviation industry at these events and be a reliable source to the future pilots of the world. Creating experiences that last a lifetime for the ones that will someday (hopefully) be in charge of the skies.
Special thanks to Mim R., Evan M., Robin B., Mandi N., Hope F. and Hanna B. & Sheila A. for assisting with bringing an aircraft over, assisting with escorting, giving the girls a tour of our a/c and working the swag table.
For more information on Air Wisconsin Airlines please visit our site at https://www.airwis.com/ and if you have any media inquiries or would like to share event photos please contact Kayla at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Women In Aviation- SE Wisconsin Chapter and their outreach efforts please email email@example.com with questions
We continue to share insight from women throughout Air Wisconsin Airlines on our social media channels and in this blog series to acknowledge their contributions and to inspire. These women all have different stories, which gives them a unique perspective on what it takes to succeed, what’s truly important, and how to live your best life.
Like the women featured in this series, we also hope that educating girls and women on the types of jobs available will encourage them to explore the exciting world of aviation. The industry is male-dominated now, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Whether you dream of the sky, love numbers, always tinker with mechanical objects or just have a general interest in aviation, there’s a path waiting for you.
Every time you face a challenge, it could be a defining moment. Nidhi finds success in uncomfortable situations by pushing herself to learn and grow. In school, she was terrified of public speaking and realized no one could solve her problem for her. Nidhi committed to sharing something valuable in every presentation, meeting, or conversation and slowly got over her fear.
Get out of your comfort zone. Go out there and start learning. No one ever shared this advice with Nidhi. She had to figure it out herself, but she credits this advice with getting her where she is today.
As a Financial Analyst, Nidhi performs multifaceted financial analysis related to operating costs, new business initiatives, labor negotiations with our various unions, etc. She also provides benchmark data to support decision-making, among other things. Nidhi knew she wanted to work in aviation, but one last challenge was in the way.
“I graduated last year in May with my Master’s degree in Aviation Finance. Due to the pandemic, being a new graduate was even tougher than usual… The only thing that did NOT change is the fact that I kept learning no matter what. I’d wake up every day, reach out to my mentors for guidance, keep looking for jobs, enroll in online classes that I found beneficial, and just kept going. Stopping was not an option I wanted to pursue, so I didn’t…
In the past, I have been told ‘Fake it ’till you make it’ or ‘Just suck it up’ when I was seeking advice from others. Now that I am living my life, those phrases hardly mean anything. Personally, I think you have to just be authentic and most importantly, kind to yourself. Just like everyone in this world, I have problems. Pretending like they do not exist does no good to me or anyone. So, my advice is to wake up, dress up, show up, have great coffee, and do such an incredible job that you feel self-motivated every single day without the need for external validation. Become the person you wish to seek advice from.”
— Nidhi Trambadia
Like pilots and aviation mechanics, Aircraft Dispatchers are predominately male but have more female representation. Fewer than 5,000 female dispatchers work in the U.S. Aviation industry. According to the FAA, they account for 19.4% of the group as of 2019. Jen joined the ranks after she decided to pursue a career as an Aircraft Dispatcher while working as a Ramp Agent.
Since joining Air Wisconsin, Jen’s career has evolved so much because she took the initiative and seized every opportunity that came her way. Say yes and get involved—that’s what we learn from Jen. Carpe diem!
“I am very proud of being a part of the Air Wisconsin Airlines Dispatch team. I started about 14 years ago as a Dispatcher after leaving the ramp in Minneapolis. I cross-trained as a Dispatch Coordinator and teach Recurrent Training. I also got Air Transportation Supervisor qualified, so I could conduct Competency Checks for Dispatchers. I am a member of the company’s Dispatch-Aviation Safety Action Program committee, working with the FAA to identify significant safety concerns and other unusual events. Finally, I ended up as a Dispatch Trainer. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given as part of the Dispatch team. It’s challenging, and I get to work with an amazing group of people.”
— Jen Sloper
Since joining our company, Emily continues to let herself shine. Her contributions were noticed, and about a year after becoming a Flight Attendant, she was promoted to Inflight Domicile Manager. In this role, Emily oversaw the entire Inflight team based at her location. Not letting the expectations of others limit her goals, Emily earned another promotion to Hub Performance Manager.
In this role, Emily liaisons between Air Wisconsin and United’s hubs and outstations. Her keen eye is always focused on our operation and improving our performance. Emily reminds us to shoot for the stars.
“Don’t let norms dictate your goals; create goals to break the norms.”
— Emily Chaudhry
Some people have aviation in their blood. Bonnie was always going to work in the industry. First, she joined the Air Force for Air Traffic Control, and while waiting to hear back from the FAA on a position, she became a Flight Attendant. Later, a female First Officer suggested Bonnie take an observation flight to see if she wanted to be a pilot. Bonnie fell in love.
That female pilot became Bonnie’s mentor and still is to this day. That experience changed Bonnie’s life, and she believes in paying it forward by helping others who want to follow in her footsteps. Bonnie’s advice to future pilots is to always do the right thing and surround yourself with people who strive to be better every day. She proves that your path may not be easy or clear, but if you stay focused and invest in yourself, you’ll find a way.
“… She told me to take an observation flight, and I’d know in 5 minutes if it was the thing for me. I instantly fell in love with flying. After that, I bit the bullet, took out a loan, and took a chance on myself. I earned my ratings at ATP. I was given a chance to fly C208 caravans at 252 hours and still kept my job as a Flight Attendant to cover my bills. I would take the train to the Philadelphia airport after my 4 days of flying, sleep in the Minute Suites, and pick up my trip as a Flight Attendant and then commute home for 1 day off. I did that for 2 years to build my hours. Finally, I reached that magic number and went to chat with airlines at Sun and Fun, and that’s where I was introduced to Air Wisconsin. I haven’t looked back since.
The road may be tough and arduous at times, and some people will want to see you fail, but with true passion for the industry and drive in your heart, you will be unstoppable. I am so thankful I took a chance on myself and for having strong support from family, my mentor, and friends. I hope to see more women aviators in the sky.”
– Bonnie Rostad
Julia first joined our team as an Avionics Technician. In this role, Julie repaired various parts of the aircraft and performed maintenance like an A&P Mechanic, but additional certification allowed her to work on aircraft electrical systems. After completing our in-house training, she was promoted to her current role as an Inspector.
This vital position provides a check and balance inside of the hangar. Inspectors like Julia observe the mechanics, offer assistance, and double-check work before completing the sign-off. Julia also has the responsibility to inspect parts to determine if they can be refurbished or reused. Knowledge, excellent problem-solving skills, and critical thinking are instrumental in this career path.
Working with great people is one reason why Julia loves her job. Working for a smaller company has its perks and allows her to keep learning every day.
“I like the experience I get while working at Air Wisconsin. It’s a smaller company, so I have been able to learn about all parts of the airplane. Every day brings new challenges that need to be solved by troubleshooting.”
– Julia Darnick
Air Wisconsin is thankful to have such talented and inspiring people on our team. It’s a pleasure to play a developmental role in our employees’ careers and watch them grow.
If you only take one thing with you, let it be this: seize every opportunity to better yourself. And don’t be afraid to create those opportunities yourself. Every person experiences challenges in their life. How will you let those moments define you?
Explore all of our career opportunities HERE, and stay in touch by following us!
This month, we’re highlighting women throughout our company on our social media channels and asking them to share advice or insight. The hope is that their words will inspire others, guide the next generation, and offer encouragement to anyone who needs it.
In this two-part series, you’ll hear from women whose careers are more commonly top-of-mind when you think of aviation and hear from women whose careers are not. We’ll highlight that women tend to be in the minority when it comes to many aviation careers such as pilot, mechanic, or aircraft dispatcher. Companies like Air Wisconsin and the organizations mentioned in this blog are trying to change that by educating girls and women on the types of opportunities available.
This series will also help amplify the voices of the women already in those roles at Air Wisconsin Airlines, providing an example and inspiration for anyone who chooses aviation as their career path. Please join us in celebrating and acknowledging the contributions made by these outstanding women.
As an A&P Mechanic, Kassidy performs maintenance and repairs various parts of the aircraft including working on the engine. This is a very technical job that requires problem-solving skills, the ability to troubleshoot complex problems, and the right certifications. Kassidy loves her job and plays a hands-on role in keeping our operation safe and on-time. She is one of the few female aircraft mechanics in the United States.
In December 2019, only 2.5% of aircraft mechanics in the US were women, according to the FAA. Out of all of the possible careers in aviation, this one has the smallest percentage of women. Many companies like Air Wisconsin are emphasizing the need for more diversity in the field and raising awareness.
Kassidy hopes more women pursue this rewarding career and reminds us all to find our support system. No one accomplishes anything alone.
“Always gaining knowledge and moving forward is what I love about my career. I have earned my place, but I was not walking alone. The individuals that stood by me and lent a helping hand when I needed it will always have my utmost appreciation and gratitude. Tomorrow is why I love working in this industry. Each day is brand new.”
– Kassidy Wykoff
Sonji discovered her passion for aviation by chance. When she graduated from high school, she wanted to become a Registered Nurse. After taking some business classes, Sonji started to lean toward Human Resources Management. But it wasn’t until she was hired as a Ramp Fleet Service Clerk with a mainline carrier that she realized how much she loved the fast-paced aviation industry.
Although she had jobs in other industries after, Sonji still loved aviation and eventually joined our team. Now, Sonji supports our largest crew base and positively impacts the lives of countless people every day. By supporting our crew members, they are better able to take care of our passengers.
Sonji reminds us that the people you work with every day make a world of difference. Find your work family.
“I am very proud of my strong work ethic and my ability to be a team player for the Inflight/Flight team. I am valued. Knowing that my work family appreciates what I do in the office daily motivates me… Follow your dreams, and never compromise your integrity. Every step that you take in life is not easy, but always remain authentic. Figure out your purpose, and strive to reach it. Nothing happens overnight, so be patient with the process. Don’t let your attitude determine your altitude. Be accountable for your actions. Don`t judge others, and encourage others who need direction in this journey called life.”
— Sonji Nicholas
Interested in aviation? Take First Officer Trista’s advice and get involved with an aviation-based organization to explore the many different paths available. She suggests Women in Aviation International, which is the largest and most well-known. Other female-led aviation organizations include but are not limited to Sisters of the Skies and the Ninety-Nines.
If you want to fly as a career, you also have numerous options. During her career, Trista was a flight instructor, flew scenic tours, was part of a fire patrol team, flew corporate flights, and currently flies commercial flights for us under the United Express banner. In December 2019, 7.9% of pilots in the United States were women, according to the FAA. That number is slowly growing as more companies like Air Wisconsin and our partner United Airlines commit to encouraging girls and women to explore aviation and other opportunities in STEM.
Your journey is unique. Find the path that works for you and go for it! Trista is proof that childhood dreams come true if you’re willing to work hard and believe in yourself.
“I would highly recommend getting involved in one of the female aviation organizations like Women in Aviation International. These organizations provide several benefits and opportunities to members such as scholarships, networking, and mentoring… I love so many aspects of working in aviation… Being an airline pilot is all I’ve ever wanted to be since I was 8 years old. Every time an airplane would fly overhead, I would look up in amazement. Now whenever I step into the flight deck, I’m still just as amazed that this is my career. Being responsible for 50 passengers in a multi-million dollar aircraft is a huge privilege.”
— First Officer Trista Higgins
Behind-the-scenes members of our Maintenance team like Cori make up about 30% of our Maintenance department at Air Wisconsin. As the Program Manager of Aircraft Components, Cori’s job impacts our entire operation. She manages all of the repairable components from our aircraft that are sent to third-party vendors for repair. Additionally, Cori ensures these vendors meet or exceed the standards set by our Maintenance Program. She also works closely with other internal departments to verify inventory levels are sufficient to support the operation.
Like many people, it took Cori some time to discover what she really wanted to do as a career. Inspired by her mother, she kept looking until she found one that fit. Cori teaches us not to settle—find something you’re passionate about.
“I would have never guessed that I’d end up in the aviation industry. I grew up watching my mom’s unwavering passion and dedication to her career and knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I found an industry I was as passionate about. I changed my career path countless times during college until I found the right fit in aviation, and I haven’t looked back. I strive to emulate her passion and dedication and pass this along to my kids. Whether my kids are 5, 17, or 30, I want them to always look for that ‘perfect fit’ in whatever they do in life.”
– Cori Fuller
Lisa was born to soar in the sky. Like many people who become Flight Attendants, she was never interested in the 9-5 lifestyle. Traveling and meeting new people is exciting and a much better way to spend the day. You also have the chance to build strong, life-long friendships with fellow crew members.
Lisa also enjoys taking care of others, which is why being a Flight Attendant is so rewarding. Not only do you help transport people to important events and fun vacations, but you’re primarily responsible for their safety. Lisa reminds us that there’s a whole world to explore and plenty of opportunities for anyone who doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day.
“I love being a Flight Attendant as I love to travel and love customer service. You are always meeting different people from around the world. Come join the friendly skies with me, and I promise you never want to go back to any other job.”
– Lisa Hopkins
Click HERE to read part two. You’ll learn more about the different career paths available within aviation and meet more of the women who help make Air Wisconsin a leader in the regional airline industry.
Meeting what many in the aviation industry have dubbed “a unicorn,” or a female pilot, makes all the difference to a young girl or woman with aspirations of flight. It marks the moment their dream feels achievable. That is why Air Wisconsin encourages and offers its pilots the opportunity to represent the company at events to help inspire and reassure the next generation.
“It’s okay to dream of doing this,” said Air Wisconsin Captain Avreet Randhawa. “When you get in touch with other women who fly, they’re very supportive.” She added, “I go to all these air shows because I get to meet people, and I love that. It’s always amazing to share what you’ve gone through. We don’t see a lot of female pilots out there.”
Without the encouragement of her parents, Avreet admits she probably never would have become a pilot. “I was 10 when I started saying I wanted to fly.” Avreet ended up getting a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field. In her last year at school, her father reminded her of that faded aspiration and motivated her to earn a pilot rating after graduation. It was a wildly different path than anyone in her family had taken. Still, two months after graduation, Avreet was at Phoenix East Aviation flight school halfway around the world, finally learning to fly.
Air Wisconsin First Officer Trista Higgins credits her mom with affirming her desire to take to the skies. “As a kid, I was always fascinated with airplanes and airline travel, but of course, never saw or knew a female pilot. When I was about eight years old, I asked my mom if girls could be pilots too. Without hesitation, she said, ‘Yes!’ From that point on, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.”
As one of the few airlines run by a female CEO, motivating women to explore careers in aviation is a pursuit especially close to Air Wisconsin’s heart. Supporting and sponsoring events like Girls in Aviation Day and the Women in Aviation annual conference are ways the company works toward that goal.
CEO Christine Deister said, “By our words and actions, let’s encourage and mentor our sisters, daughters and other young women by showing them that great aviation careers are accessible and available to them in the same way that we have always taken for granted and assumed that our brothers, sons and young men will pursue those opportunities.”
We all need encouragement from time to time. If you’re interested in a career as a pilot but unsure where to start, reach out to a local flight school and ask about discovery flights. You’ll takeoff in a small plane flown by a Certified Flight Instructor and know within minutes whether or not flying is for you. Next, “make connections and perhaps even find a mentor,” suggests First Officer Trista Higgins. “Do some research and figure out what kind of pilot you want to be. Find the best path for you, then go for it!”
Anyone interested in an aviation career is always welcome to seek advice from Air Wisconsin. Come see us at any event for resume reviews, interview tips, or just to say hello. You’ll likely meet one of our pilots who has been on the same journey you are on now. They would love to help.
You can also reach out to our recruiting team any time at firstname.lastname@example.org, and explore all of our opportunities at www.airwis.com/careers.