Female aviators are breaking more than just sound barriers: Whiteman AFB hosts Ninety-Nines

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Victoria Hommel
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Whether flying fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, gliders, fighter jets or hot air balloons, female aviators sharing passion of flight, were welcomed to Whiteman Air Force base for a tour and networking opportunity unlike any other.

Presenting this opportunity for military and civilian pilots alike, U.S. Air Force Maj. Jennifer Crum, 393d Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations, arranged the visitation for members of the Ninety-Nines and Women in Aviation, two organizations working to promote female advancement through aviation and to address the unique barriers presented to female pilots.

“The Ninety-Nines is an international organization of women pilots that promotes the advancement of aviation through education, scholarships and mutual support,” Crum said. “With so few women in the industry, the Ninety-Nines give me an opportunity to connect with other women who may face similar problems or barriers that I face.”

According to the FAA’s Aeronautical Center, as of 2020, women make up less than 9% of all pilots, and less than 5% of them are professional.

There are unique challenges that are presented to females working in male dominated career fields. 

“I’m the eleventh woman to ever fly the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber,” Crum said. “I’m usually the only woman in the room or at the table here at Whiteman and while I don’t feel discriminated against because of this, I do notice it. I’m not treated any differently than the men beside me, but they have also not had to contemplate putting their aviation progression on hold to start a family.”

Utilizing a community of female pilots, female pilots associated with the Ninety-Nines can discuss barriers, as well as mentor others who may face similar barriers.

Among the group that toured the installation was Christa Griffin, Ninety-Nines Greater Kansas City Chapter Chair.

“An organization of female aviators is important in today’s world because there are so few of us,” Griffin said. “We are also helping create a path for the younger generation of women pilots.”

With the ultimate goal of expanding aviation opportunities for females and diversifying aviation, the Ninety-Nines are constantly encouraging females to learn of the large number of opportunities that come with aviation.  

“The Ninety-Nines encourage women to learn about the opportunities the military can provide, but more effort is needed to get more women military aviators out there to share their story,” Crum said. “We are working to expose and promote women across all aspects of aviation.”

During the tour, the organization toured the B-2 Spirit facilities, flew a B-2 simulator, and learned more about military flying opportunities. 

“This is an incredibly unique opportunity,” Griffin said. “Networking with military aviators is beneficial for our members to see a new career path within aviation.”

Continuing to network with organizations that enhance the Air Force’s efforts, ensures growth and diversification, and helps promote education and mentorship, is important for fostering innovation and progress in the aviation industry.  

Through passion of flight, military and civilian aviators are working toward a diverse career path and fostering an environment where every person can take advantage of the rewarding career field that is aviation.