Corporate Pilots Hold Career Symposium In Michigan

Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2019 issue

LANSING, MICH. – The second annual Women’s Aviation Career Symposium (WACS) was held January 26, 2019 in Lansing, Michigan, and sponsored by Women in Aviation, International, Great Lakes Chapter. Over 50 women from central Michigan attended the event which was founded by three corporate pilots: Helen Hagg, Mary Poirier and Pam Tobin. The idea for the event came about as a way to alleviate the industry-wide pilot and mechanic shortage.

Dean Walters, one of the event sponsors, cited an article from Aviation International News (AIN): Female fliers hold the key to solving the pilot shortage. The article states that women make up 47 percent of the total workforce. But professional female pilots constitute 5 percent of the pilot workforce, a statistic that has remained unmoved in four decades.

“Our goal is to encourage women to ‘aspire for even higher.’ We want to show these ladies that they can accomplish anything and that there are many different careers in aviation that they may not even know about yet. There is also over $6.1 million available in scholarships every year – that’s a lot of free money out there which can help accomplish dreams,” said Helen Hagg.

For a list of scholarships compiled by the Women in Aviation Great Lakes Chapter, visit

WACS attendees were able to meet and network with more than 25 women who are corporate and airline pilots, military personnel, mechanics, air traffic controllers, seamstresses, ground-handlers, and flight attendants. Round table discussion panels were held in the morning where attendees could ask questions about different careers and learn about the everyday lives of each panelist.

Following the panel discussions, attendees were able to tour corporate aircraft and visit booths from local aviation companies and schools.

The keynote speaker was Adlay Kejjan, who gave an inspirational talk about her life as a Syrian refugee and the obstacles she had to overcome to become a pilot, Certified Flight Instructor, and paramedic, which included learning English and keeping her flight career a secret from her family for seven years.

This year WACS was able to award two $1,000 scholarships for aviation education, thanks to generous donations from sponsors: Jackson National, GrandAir Aviation, Western Michigan University, Mead and Hunt, Satcom Direct, and Flight Management Corporation. Scholarships were awarded to Michelle Blanks and Melissa Smith. Following the event, the attendees were able to tour the Air Traffic Control Tower at Capital Region International Airport (KLAN).

For more information regarding next year’s event, contact Helen Hagg at

The Women in Aviation, International Great Lakes Chapter is a group of women and men based in the Mid-Michigan area. Its mission is to connect, engage, and inspire people to explore aviation. For more information, contact

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