Town & Country Resort
San Diego, CA
March 13-15, 2008

I got a chance to go down to San Diego last month for the 19th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference. The trip made me rethink about a lot of things. It’s definitely an eye opener for me.

Women in Aviation, International (WAI) is a non-profit organization, dedicated to providing educational, training, mentoring and networking opportunities to women (and men) in aviation and aerospace industries. WAI began in 1990, and currently has more than 15,000 members around the world.

This year conference, which included a wide range of activities like workshops, clinics, seminars, education sessions, general sessions with keynote speakers, special events, silent auctions, etc., happened to be the biggest one ever, with more than 3300 attendees and 150+ separate companies and organizations on display in the exhibition hall, representing all aspects of aviation community.

There’s a lot of women (and some men) in uniforms, they looked sooooooo cool and very well-composed. Also, a huge amount of women in older generation, seriously they’re really old, but I bet my bank account they still kick ass! XD

Long entry ahead. Stop here if you’re in a hurry, otherwise, enjoy! ^^

Boeing involved in this year conference as a Platinum Eagle level sponsor, the 2nd highest one. We sponsored a professional development seminar, education sessions, career development scholarships, and social event for Boeing employees. There are more than 300 employees attended, including 11 from my division. Boeing exhibit also features 777 flight simulation, I’ve got to land 777! And I didn’t crash! XD

Some of my friends and I arrived in SD late Wednesday afternoon, basically missed the Military Day Tours (aka, missing a chance to talk to cute pilots get on the real military aircraft v__v;). Anyway, we stayed at Handlery Hotel & Resort, about 10 minute walk from Town & Country Resort where the conference took place. Our hotel looked pretty nice on the web, but rather old in real life ^^” My room had an incredibly great view of a parking lot. *snorts* According to my uncle, most hotels in Hotel Circle are like that. Oh well, it’s just a place to sleep anyway, as long as the room didn’t stink, no complaint here! LOL

Professional development seminars on the first day was fun. Boeing‘s Project Plan-opoly, a combination of project management class and Monopoly game was interesting, but somehow moved at a slow pace, lots of people lost interest half way through, myself included. But the good thing was I’ve got a chance to talk to other people in my table and learn more about them, good networking opportunity! ^^

The second and third day were in the same format, general session with keynote speakers in the morning, followed by exhibition hall with tons of freebies, and education sessions in the afternoon. There’s a lot of interesting sessions going on each afternoon, which made it hard to decide which one to attend. Therefore, we split up and went separate way.

Walking through the exhibition hall was fun. I’m a stationery freak, so freebies at the exhibits is ♥~ Once people know we’re from Boeing, they started talking about the controversial Tanker decision. It was interesting to hear their thoughts and how they attacked USAF :P

Author Ann Lewis Cooper and illustrator Sharon Rajnus joined forces in creating this newest book: Stars of the Sky, Legends All, fully packed with inspiring, exciting and encouraging stories about 50 impressive women in aviation histories.

I attended Stars of the Sky session and the first thing I noticed was that there’s a LOT of old ladies in that room. Once Ann and Sharon started talking about some of the stories in the book, I could totally see their eyes sparkle. The joy, the excitement, the love for aviation were still there. Those spirits would never leave. A few ‘Stars’ were also in that room, including Major Nicole Malachowski, the first woman to be selected and serve as the Air Force Thunderbirds’ pilot.

When the author and the illustrator of the book asked those Stars to come to the front of the room, people started asking questions. One of the standard questions came up:

What did you do when people tell you that you’re never gonna make it?

The Stars told us some of their stories and how they pushed pass the barriers. One particular statement that stuck with me was from Maj. Malachowski. She simply said that there are only two things you can do: give them a smile and go do it.

Yes, smile and go do it.

That’s the keyword. It’s easy to dream big, but how many people can achieve those dreams, if they don’t start working towards them?

Here we go, Sara in a serious-talk mode. LOL

Also, I went to the Friday Night Gala at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. I bought the book, got some autographs from the author, the illustrator and some of the women featured in this book! One of the guy who queued up after me said that he’d never seen a book signing like this before, having the subjects of the book sign the book about themselves! xD I was super lucky, as I approached the end of the signing line, Maj. Malachowski just arrived, so Ann Cooper went to grab her and asked her to sign my book too! ^______^

To the winds of the world
and the wings of your dreams

That’s what Kitty Banner, Alaska glacier pilot, wrote for me that night :)

Another session that I really liked was the BentStar Project’s Last Flight Home.

During WWII, many of planes had gone mission over Palau and most of those MIA mysteries were left unsolved. After his first visit to Palau in 1993 as a part of a team in search of something else, Dr. Pat Scannon was left searching for more. After more than a decade of searching on and around the islands of Palau, his team has been responsible for finding and identifying more than 4 dozens of missing WWII aircraft, many with MIAs.

I think it was really amazing how they spent their own time and energy to find the answers. For the waiting families. They showed us some interviews with the family members, who talked about how they felt during WWII, and their believes and hopes. Some said they just wanted to keep hoping that their love ones were still alive somewhere. Some said that they just wanted to hang on to those hopes since there were nothing to confirm anything about these MIAs.

Dr. Scannon’s BentProp Project ended the painful wait by bringing answers to these family members. Maybe it’s not the answer they really wanted to hear, but at least, they could finally have some peace, knowing the truth.

Let’s skip back to general sessions. All keynotes speakers were extremely interesting and inspiring. Seriously, awesome speakers. They knew exactly how to capture their audience.

Julie Clark, John & Martha King, Pamela Melroy, Sherry Avery, Deborah Limb, Peter H. Diamandis, and Jennifer Murray. You can google any of them up to read about their stories, but it was way cooler to be there and listen to them talking about their experience! weeeheeee~~~ xD

Pamela Melroy is the second US woman to be a NASA Space Shuttle pilot and Commander. Her talk was about “Living Your Dreams”. I recalled reading about her a long time ago, her picture in that orange spacesuit on a cover of whatever magazine it was. She had to go through a lot before she could become an astronaut, fulfilled her childhood dream.

During the session, she talked about her mission last year to deliver something (about future lab?) to the International Space Station and to relocate the solar arrays. Unfortunately, one of the arrays was damaged during the process, so her team had to worked together with the ground crews, and eventually had to go out and repair the solar array. Wow! A completely unplanned spacewalk was a success. Mission accomplished and they’re back home after 15+ days in the space!

John and Martha King of King Schools, the only husband and wife to both hold every category and class of FAA pilot and instructor certificates, and also business partners, gave us some really great advice along with some marriage jokes!

  • Be really good at what you do in a modest kind of way
  • Seek to understand people, rather than being understood
  • Hire for attitude, everything else can be trained!
  • TNT – Trust, Need, Triumph

Sherry Avery, Air Traffic Controller (ATC), head of the Los Angeles TRACON, added on more advices with her great sense of humor;

  • Listen and be patient
  • Communicate. Take on conflict.
  • Dress for success! ← the way she described this one cracked me up!
  • Stay flexible and be willing to change.
  • Balance your professional and personal lives.
  • Dream your boss’ job.. you’ll never know~ XD
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistake, pain is the best instructor

Deborah Limb, Director of Payloads and Structures Engineering, Boeing Commercial Airplane (BCA), took a different approach and told us about her personal life, how she dealt with illness and how a miracle did happen to her.

We met her at Boeing social event the night before, and she also dropped by Boeing Exhibit after this general session. Approachable was the first word that came to my mind when I first saw her. To me, that’s one of the best characteristics of a leader.

Jennifer Murray, the only woman to solo a helicopter around the world. Her experience was really fascinating. She started learning how to fly when her husband bought a helicopter, but he didn’t really have time for it, and that was when she’s in her 50’s!

She told us about one of her journey where she and her flying buddy crashed their helicopter in the middle of nowhere. Well, not really nowhere since the rescue team was able to find them. But before the rescue team arrived, they were stranded for a big while and her buddy was injured pretty badly he nearly died. But as soon as they were rescued, he told her to go get a new helicopter! Talking about an obsessed mind!! LOL She then went to her sponsor company, told them what happened and that she needed a new helicopter. To her surprise, the just gave her what she asked for. Her sponsor simply said:

You haven’t failed, until you stop trying.

So true.

Dr. Peter H Diamandis is chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation, which awarded the $10,000,000 Ansari X PRIZE for private spaceflight and is now implementing prizes in a variety of different arenas. His mission is to open space frontier to humanity. If you google him up, you’ll see he’s a real geek.

He also serves as the CEO and co-founder of Zero Gravity Corporation, which offer parabolic weightless flights to general public. This was where he shared a wonderfully touching story.

Dr. Diamandis did something that people basically said he’s nuts. He approached Prof. Stephen Hawking, asking him whether he wants to try being in the weightlessness state. It would have been totally fine hadn’t Dr. Hawking been severely disabled by ALS. It took a lot of preparation for this to happen. They basically had to set up an emergency room inside the plane, everyone needed to be ready in case anything happened.

When asked why he agreed to do this insane thing, Dr. Hawking’s replied:

Dr. Hawking experienced weightlessness 8 times. For the first time in 40 years, he was completely free from the confines of his wheelchair.


The last thing Dr. Diamandis said to us that day: Do what you love, so you don’t quit.

Last but not the least, let’s talk about the luncheon banquet sponsored by Delta Airlines and its subsidiaries on the second day. It was nasty! LOL Seriously, very nasty food, but just food only, the rest was beyond awesome!

General Chuck Yeager was the guest speaker during the luncheon, and it was so exciting, being able to see the legend in real life! A fighter ace, a legendary test pilot, a true leader, and the very first man to break the sound barrier!! He’s the real deal! *bounces*

Last year, General Yeager flew a US Air Force F-16 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Breaking the Sound Barrier (October 14, 2007), the 60th anniversary of USAF (September 18, 2007), and 65 years of General Yeager flying in military cockpits. That’s a BIG WOW! He basically flew every single kind of aircrafts the USAF has!

One of the ladies at my table recommended me to go watch a movie: The Right Stuff, a story about US post-war experiment on speed and space program. Sam Shepard portrayed General Yeager in that film. It’s on my Blockbuster queue now ^^

They showed us a short DVD about him (which he, later on, joked about watching his 65 years in 26 minutes was kinda tough/weird LOL), then he came up to the stage and captured us all with his magnificent stories and great sense of humor. He recalled a lot of ‘fun’ (aka crazy) things he did in the past since he joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. My advice is to google him up, you have to read them all! An hour (probably less) during the banquet was definitely not enough to learn about this great man.

Being in the right place, at the right time. That was his belief throughout his career.

After his talk, WAI president went up to the stage, and some staff brought out a cake. A belated birthday cake for Gen. Yeager! We sang Happy Birthday to him, and had my eyes seen things correctly, there’re tears in his eyes.

At first, I thought the scholarship session after General Yeager’s talk would be boring. Well, it was kinda boring, until it turned out to be very touching with one of this year recipients.

Barry Hulon Hyde had a dream. He wanted to be a race pilot, and he was working his way towards that dream, locking more than 1,500 flight hours and worked as a flight instructor by the time he was 26. Unfortunately, he lost his eyesight along with ability to taste or smell in a terrible plane crash almost 10 years ago, a week before his interview for a pilot job.

That didn’t stop him for being near what he loves. Still bitter about the accident, he eventually became the first ever FAA blind ground flight instructor, fully licensed, of course.

He’s currently working on his Ph.D., focusing on flight safety.

The audience gave a really loud applause when Barry came up to the stage with Lincoln, his guide dog.

A scholarship well deserved.

Towards the end of the luncheon, Delta did its trick. *whacks*

They showed us a video clip of flight crews who sending our soldiers off to their missions and also bringing them home. They talked about how the soldier thanked them and so on. The crews showed us some pictures they took with the soldiers. I could totally see how HAPPY they were on the flight back home. *kicks wars and…*beeps*.. * One time, there was a long delay due to severe weather. The soldiers mentioned that there wouldn’t be anyone left at that hours. But they’re wrong, all families and friends were still waiting for them that the AFB! No matter how late it was, those who waited would never leave.

And the BGM was just sooooooooo sad and lamenting!

Touched. Touched. Touched. Touched. Touched.

Damn it Delta, I was able to hold off my tears for so long, but this one was just too much!! T__T

Overall, the conference was gearing more towards those in technical fields such as pilots, mechanics or engineers. But even though I’m in finance field, I did learn a lot during this trip.

One word to sum it all up: DREAMS (and how to tackle them)

Listening to these great speakers actually made me stop and think: What am I doing?

Am I doing what I want to do? or what I could do? or what I should do?

Sometimes, the answer is just too obvious I don’t want to admit it.


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