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I could tell my inbound flight to Nashville, Southwest 3411 from Phoenix, was going to be special. First of all, the aircraft was a beautiful, new Boeing 737-800, which the airline only began operating within the past year. More important, women pilots headed to WAI 2013 were among the passengers.

I am a private pilot, so I was dressed in plain, tourist clothes. However, we had three uniformed women pilots in the cabin, one of whom I knew from my Ninety-Nines chapter back in California.

As we began descending, a flight attendant announced over the public address system that the plane had some very special guests on board: a group of women pilots on their way to the Women in Aviation conference in Nashville. Among the whoops and applause across the cabin, I let out a cheer. I’m sure the passengers around me assumed I was just happy about women becoming pilots–not that I actually was one myself and was going to the same conference. Shortly thereafter, upon a safe and smooth landing in gusty crosswinds, the flight attendant suggested that the female first officer was probably the pilot to thank for it.

This my second time to the WAI conference. The flight on Wednesday was a wonderful way to start my trip, and became an unexpected opportunity to show our spirit and recognize the accomplishments of women in aviation.

Note: I originally wrote this for the WAI Daily, the printed newsletter of the 24th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference. WAI also posted it on the WAI Connect blog.

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