Young Women Make Historic Landing
By Ree Hines, TODAY
Imagine flights fueled by girl power, soaring toward new career paths for young women. Delta Air Lines’ WING program (Women Inspiring the Next Generation) has been making that a reality since 2015 by putting girls on flights manned exclusively by women.
And WING just took off again with a historic flight that has the potential to lead its more than 100 passengers beyond the skies.
The goal of WING is to introduce a generation of girls to jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), something that could be an important step toward bridging the gender gap that currently exists in commercial cockpits.
“For every 100 male (pilots), there’s only six women — and there are even fewer women of color in that example,” Delta’s VP and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer Keyra Lynn Johnson told TODAY correspondent Blayne Alexander. “So today’s flight gives us an opportunity to not just wait on the talent to arrive but actually to grow the talent that we need for the future.”
And the sources for inspiration available on the WING flight go far beyond the flight deck.
Every person involved in the flight is female — from those in the air to the TSA and ticket agents on the ground. It’s something that excites Captain Cheri Rohlfing, a co-founder of the program. “I want them to see that they can do it,” she said of the participants. “So they can say, ‘OK, I want to be a pilot,’ or ‘Do I want to be a mechanic?'”
They may even wonder just how far they’ll fly one day.
This flight took its special group of passengers to another place perfectly suited for those with a passion for STEM — all the way to Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida. It marked the first-ever landing of a commercial flight at the NASA field center.
NASA’s Artemis team is working to send the first woman to the moon, and Deputy Project Manager Jenny Lyons sees the future of that effort in the faces of the WING participants.
“When you think about it in terms of these young women, they are the Artemis generation,” she said. “So they are the ones who are going to see all of this come to fruition.”
And they’re ready to work together to make it happen.
As one of the young women put it, “No matter what goes on in life, and how men or anybody uses that, we’re still strong and we stand together.”