MMAC Employees Attend the Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day
Vol.7 Issue 8
Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day 2021
Wally Funk stepped off the plane Friday to fanfare at Will Rogers World Airport
Wally Funk on her way into OKWIAA

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC), the Oklahoma Airport Operators Association (OAOA) and the Ninety-Nines invited Astronaut Wally Funk to speak at the 5th Annual Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace (OKWIAA) Day. Just across the airport runway from the Aeronautical Center, in the historic AAR hangar, people from all across the state attended this amazing event on November 5th, 2021. OKWIAA’s mission is to provide young girls and women to pursue aviation as a career. The event was the perfect venue to execute this mission.

“As Oklahoma's second-largest and fastest-growing industry, aviation has a significant impact on the lives of our citizens,” Oklahoma State Director of Aeronautics Grayson Ardies said. Event Chair, Sandra Shelton (Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission’s Public and Government Affairs Coordinator) added, “Today, women are represented in all sectors of our industry from commercial airports to military installations, and our event is dedicated to recognizing these achievements and paving the way for future innovations led by women in the field.”

Astronaut John Bennett Herrington, PhD, an Oklahoma native, served as the event’s celebrity emcee. Herrington flew on STS-113, logging over 330 hours in space. He welcomed Oklahoma City Mayor, David Holt to the stage, who in turn provided Wally Funk with an official key to the City. Also, a special appearance was made by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, who addressed the crowd, recognizing Wally Funk for her outstanding achievements. Stitt stated that in the last three years, more than 30 aerospace companies relocated or expanded in Oklahoma, creating more than 5,000 new jobs. Despite the growing industry, there is still more to be done in making young folks aware of the opportunities in aviation. "We need to build pathways and programs, from high school to career tech, to Associate’s degrees, Bachelor's or Master's degrees," Stitt said. When Wally took the stage, she was as energetic as any young person could be! Full of life, she shouted, "I want you girls, and you young boys, to get off of those computer things and get out to the airport, and take your first flight!”

Astronauts John Bennett Herrington and Wally Funk
Wally Funk accepts a Key to the City, presented by Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt addresses the crowd at OKWIAA

Funk was the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, the first female civilian flight instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the first female Federal Aviation Agency inspector, as well as being one of the thirteen women candidates for the famous project Mercury 13. She became the oldest woman to go into space on July 20, 2021, at the age of 82, as part of the Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft flight. "I don't want any of you to ever slow down," Funk told the crowd. "People that want to become pilots, I encourage you, get to the airport."

After Funk’s dynamic speech, a panel discussion followed which included: Michelle Coppedge - FAA Mike Monroney Center Director; Corbi Bullock - President 99’s International; Alexis Higgins - Tulsa International, OAOA; Lt. Col. Jennifer Garrison - Tinker Commander for the 964 AACS; Macy Bratton - Integrated Support Planning and Management Engineer; Shivanjli Sharma - National Campaign/Deputy Lead, NASA Ames Research Center.

A panel discussion followed Funk’s speech, including: (Pictured L-R) Michelle Coppedge - FAA Mike Monroney Center Director; Shivanjli Sharma - National Campaign/Deputy Lead, NASA Ames Research Center; Lt. Col. Jennifer Garrison - Tinker Commander for the 964 AACS; Ashleigh Robinson – Miss Oklahoma 2021; Alexis Higgins - Tulsa International Airport, OAOA; and Corbi Bullock - President 99’s International
MMAC Director Michelle Coppedge answers a question posed by Astronaut John Bennett Herrington

Several employees from the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center were in also attendance that day. Veronica Salazar, Management and Program Analyst (AMA-020) said, “This was an opportunity to see Women in this industry break barriers and see the smoke from the trails that they have blazed.” She added, “In my aviation career, I’m inspired to press forward to find success waiting for me, and I understand the value of reaching my hand out to bring others with me.”

Dr. Carla Hackworth, Supervisory Research Psychologist (AAM-500) said she was starstruck to meet one of her heroes, Dr. Herrington. Back in 2008, Dr.Hackworth was a triathlete and while in her local bike shop, she saw the bicycle that Herrington would be riding from the state of Washington to Florida (to raise awareness for STEM). “Seeing him on stage was a true highlight, and Wally Funk did not disappoint!” Carla described Funk as a “spitfire, so alive, free and full of pure joy.” She enjoyed hearing how Wally took ownership of her accomplishments, and appreciated her tenacity. Hackworth’s son has wanted to be an astronaut since the age of 3. She continued, “After it was over, I could hardly believe I had been fortunate to be there. Because of people such as the Wally Funk, John Bennett Herrington, and those who support the aerospace industry, my son’s opportunity is expanding!”

Debbie Uglean, Management and Program Analyst (AMC-3) was also in attendance. She commented that attending the OKWIAA event was a very eye-opening, inspiring experience. “As I walked into the aviation themed AAR hangar, I saw hundreds of beautiful, strong women in aviation and aerospace related fields.” She continued, “It made me realize that I am part of a larger team working to prove that Oklahoma is an aviation and aerospace powerhouse.” Debbie added, “Watching American aviator, space tourist and goodwill ambassador Wally Funk speak, I was reminded that setbacks are not the end of our dreams and goals; that age is just a number; and just how important and wonderful the world of aviation and aerospace is. I am very proud to support the FAA and MMAC’s mission of providing the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world!”

Shivanjli Sharma, John Bennett Herrington and Michelle Coppedge
Veronica Salazar, Debbie Uglean, Chanda Sanders, Katy Williams, Kim Sheppard, and Carla Hackworth at OKWIAA 2021

This was the first time Katy Williams, Contract Support (AMC-3) was able to attend the OKWIAA Day. “As a new employee in the aviation and aerospace industry, I have been learning a lot of new and exciting things since graduating college in May. I was ecstatic when asked to attend the 5th Annual Women in Aviation and Aerospace Luncheon this year,” she said. “It was fascinating to see so many strong and impactful women in one career field all coming together to be recognized and appreciated.” Katy continued, “Plus, who doesn’t want to end their week listening to Wally Funk? She is truly one of the coolest and most inspirational women, and I was honored to be in the same room as her, along with the other women in attendance.”

Project Management Specialist, Regina Schroeder (AMC-3) also had this to say about the event. “This is my second time attending Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day (my last time was in 2019). On both occasions, I noticed that there is a genuinely positive, innovative, excited energy in the air.” Further, she stated, “There is hope for future possibilities in aviation. I am sure that former female aviators (some of whom go back to the early 1900’s) are excited see that their efforts have paved the way and opened doors for future female aviation industry members.”

Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day 2021

Personnel Psychologist, Chanda Sanders (AAM-520) also attended the OKWIAA and had this to say, “There is no better time to be a woman in aviation and aerospace than right now. It was exhilarating to listen to Wally Funk talk about her adventure into space with Jeff Bezos, and it reminded me that my best days are yet to come.” Chanda also enjoyed seeing MMAC Director, Michelle Coppedge on stage as one of the important panelists at the event and said, “I felt proud to work for the FAA as I listened to her describe her unexpected path into aviation.” Sanders added that there were many other things that she enjoyed about being there, but summarized, “We are living on the cusp of a new world where glass ceilings for women no longer exist, and we have limitless opportunities to have a voice and make significant and meaningful contributions in the world of aerospace and aviation.”

To see more photos of the Oklahoma Women in Aviation and Aerospace Day event, visit the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission’s Facebook page:

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