Gonzales airport offers free plane rides for girls

Brandie Richardson
Nola Ninety-Nines member during one of the many Fly It Forward events

This week kicks off the Women of Aviation Week, a global initiative designed to raise awareness of aviation opportunities for girls of all ages. The NOLA Ninety-Nines, a chapter within the Southeast Section of the International Organization of Women Pilots, is hosting their annual Fly It Forward event at the Louisiana Regional Airport in Gonzales, offering girls free airplane rides.

"Only six percent of the pilot population is female, even after a 100 years," said Louisiana Regional Airport Manager Janet Gonzales. "It's important for girls to know that they have the opportunity to fly, whether its for a career or for a hobby."

Thirteen planes from pilots from the NOLA Ninety-Nines and others from areas such as Ascension, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and the Northshore administer plane rides for attendees, providing information about the plane and how to fly it.

"This will be a girl friendly environment. The majority of people that will be around will be girls. It will be hopefully more comfortable for them."

There are no age restrictions on who can attend the event, Gonzales added. She has flown girls as young as eight year old and women as old as 80 years old. The goal this year was to have 108 girls attend, though the airport has exceeded their goal and has added more seats to accommodate 150 girls.

In addition to the plane ride, attendees will use a flight simulator to see how to fly a plane, learn the mechanics behind the plane and the checklist that needs to be done before pilots can take off, hear a podcast from the Women of Aviation International and watch a film pertaining to aviation. Women pilots will also be on hand to inform attendees of flight training scholarship opportunities.

"Aviation is so rewarding and challenging. You challenge yourself and you challenge your brain. I had no idea that it was something that I could do, and if I could do it, any woman can do it. It's awesome when you can say this is a dream you had and nobody supported you in it and you didn't know there was a way, but right here you can do it."

Women of Aviation Week takes place every year during the week of March 8, the anniversary of the first women to receive her pilots license more than 100 years ago.

The event will be held Saturday, March 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Louisiana Regional Airport, 6255 Airport Industrial Blvd., Gonzales. For more information visit laregionalairport.com or call the airport at (225) 644-1959.