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Nonprofit group partners with Legacy Flight Academy to give aviation experience to 50 girls

HOUSTON – Dozens of girls got the chance Saturday to learn what it’s like to be a pilot -- flying the skies right here in Houston.

A nonprofit organization partnered with pilots from all over the nation to bring these students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the field of aviation as a professional pilot -- all in hopes of inspiring girls from all walks of life to dream big.

Sisters of the Skies is a nonprofit organization founded by two women, African-American pilots who realized there weren't many pilots who looked like they did.

“Our mission is to increase the number of minority women pilots. I work for a major airline and out of 12,500 pilots at the airline I work for there are less than 15 black female pilots and there are two that are captains,” said SOS founder Nia Wordlaw, a captain who is a pilot for United Airlines. “The numbers are dismal and a group of us ladies who are in the military as well as the airlines decided that we need to change this -- change this narrative -- so we formed a nonprofit organization called Sisters of the Skies, and we have an awesome event, 'Girls Rock Wings.' We are taking 50 young ladies from Houston, ages 10-17, and we are exposing them to aviation at the Lone Star Flight Museum.”

SOS partnered with the Lone Star Museum and the Legacy Flight Academy to create several hands-on activities and demonstrations. The eight-hour program included a tour of the air traffic control tower, a workshop on flight planning and execution, Q&A sessions with professional female pilots and introductory plane rides.

“They’re going to go through our aviation learning center, which is going to teach them about navigation, weather and principals of flight,” said Kenneth Morris, director of education and outreach for the museum.

More than 20 professional, commercial and military pilots flew their planes from all over the country to volunteer their time to teach these 50 girls.

“I flew out of Corpus Christi. I’m based there with the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Lt. Ronaqua Russell. “I flew in to talk to young girls about aviation. We don’t have a lot of military women pilots, so definitely looking to show people other options -- you can also be in the military and be a pilot.”

Some of the guests included the first African-American female Air Force pilot in the U.S.

“They’re getting to see a day In the life. How we get in, how we flight plan,” said Capt. Theresa Claiborne, who now flies Boeing 757s ad 767s for United Airlines. “I want them to know that it’s possible. It’s all about possibilities. I think a lot of them never realized that they can actually be a pilot. So them seeing us I hope they realize that someone that looks like them is flying the airplane.”

The girls got to do a flight simulation, tour airplanes and then actually fly the real thing -- alongside a co-pilot instructor.

“They get to actually fly a plane,” Wordlaw said.

“It feels really inspiring because it teaches young women that you can do anything,” said third-grader Meagan Williams.

SOS thanked sponsors for allow the program to be accessible. The program actually cost roughly $250 per head; however, because of sponsorships, the girls only paid $10. The organization hopes to expand the program for the next year.