Mayor Sue Bulger and local pilot Glenyce Francis took to the skies this week to mark the beginning of International Women in Aviation week.
Despite the prominent success of female pilots like Amelia Earhart and Nancy Bird Walton, only six per cent of aviators are female.
Tumut-based aviator Glenyce Francis is the only female pilot she’s aware of in the region and will be flying to Moruya as one of the speakers at an International Women in Aviation Day event.
Ms Francis first took to the skies at 16 years of age and 50 years later she remains hooked.
To her, the small percentage of female pilots is simultaneously unfathomable and understandable; a by-product of barriers either created or self-imposed on females looking to the sky.
“People have made comments to me that if women were meant to fly the sky would be pink, or men have said I come down here to get away from women,” she said.
“I don’t know why there are so few women in aviation; I think a lot of people put up barriers in their mind or others do for them. When I wanted to start gliding around 19 or 20 I was told it was too dangerous and too physically demanding and as a result I didn’t do it for decades.”
Despite these comments and the apparent lack of understanding about sunrises and sunsets, Ms Francis has found a strong aviation community of women and men.
“There’s a lot of support as well. Men face barrier with flying too with family and friends saying it’s too dangerous or they’re the wrong build. At the end of the day it’s all garbage if you like to do something get in and do it,” she said.
Ms Francis says in 2016 there are no genuine barriers stopping women becoming commercial, military or recreational aviators, but still there is a perception the task is too perilous.
“I don’t think there are real concrete barrier to women flying I think it’s a matter of not listening to negativity, your own and others, and just doing it. I’ve found if you really want to do something, you do it no matter what,” she said.
“Even when I was older I was told high performance gliders were too slippery, too fast and too dangerous, but this time I said bugger it and got my own high performance glider.”
“I really think it comes back to you as an individual, it’s a generalisation but the way women are made up or taught to be, we can be turned off quicker, we can be a bit less pig headed or dogged than men.”
For Ms Francis aviation has been a lifelong joy, opening her to a new world figuratively and literally; even introducing her to her husband and fellow pilot, David.
She says flying was never about gender or breaking barriers but merely doing something she enjoyed and testing herself.
“When I was younger all I wanted to do was try new things. When I was older and coming back from a break in flying it was about gliding, being up high seeing the sights, just euphoric,” she said.
“But when I first started, I was young it was less that, it was about going fast and trying new things, I liked racing as well.”
After her first solo flight at 19-years-old Ms Francis was hooked flying recreationally for ten years, until life forced aviation to take a back seat.
“When I was older I went back to learn gliding as a part of the Canberra Gliding Club and there I met my husband David, we got to know each other through there, so I did meet him gliding,” she said.
“I’m 65 now I’ve been flying for about 50 years now, on and off; I just keep coming back to it because it’s simply fun, it’s a great passion.”
Currently David and Glenyce fly and maintain a RV-7 plane they built in their Canberra garage and transported to Tumut when they moved years ago.
Ms Francis said International Women in Aviation week is about exposing people of all genders to the joy of flight while acknowledging the great work of women in aviation.
“It’s to show people a hobby or career they may never have considered,” Ms Francis said.
“It’s time we broke down participation barrier, it’s also an important event to engage men. There’s nothing to stop us balancing the genders in aviation so it’s a good chance to tell people, look at all these women doing all these different things in the field.”