On August 11, 2016, Emma Hall successfully landed her first solo glider flight at Santa Ynez Airport, becoming the first female Giving Kids Wings Flight Academy student to do so. Her grandmother, Carol Keene, noticed that when she landed and got out of the plane, Emma’s face was “full of pride and the thrill of the accomplishment.” Her mother, JoAnne Hall, called the moment “amazing.”
“It was just beyond words!” Joanne exclaimed. “Even the instructor cried!”
Dan Mikkelsen, GKWFA’s executive director and a certified flight instructor, said that the moment was particularly significant because Emma plans on a career in aviation, a field he calls “one of the most gender polarized and segregated fields of work.”
“Only about 5% of professional pilots are women, and about 6% are ethnic minorities,” he commented. “This added a layer of significance to Emma’s solo. It reinforced for me the dire need to recruit and train young women and underrepresented minorities as professional aviators.”
For 15-year-old Emma, this first step toward a private pilot’s license came after her mother, who once aspired to be a private pilot herself, encouraged her to take the flight school class offered at her school, DaVinci Science High School. Emma signed up and went on her first flight in a small powered plane with Mikkelsen. She was hooked immediately, a fact that’s unsurprising when you consider that an interest in flight runs in her family.
Emma’s maternal great-grandfather, Loren Holmes, was a member of the Millville Flight Flying Club in Millville, New Jersey. Thanks in part to the club’s efforts, the Millville Airport became “America’s First Defense Airport” in the 1940’s and was used a training base for World War II fighter pilots. Holmes, meanwhile, went to Florida and for two years, served as an instructor there for fighter pilots with the Army. At that time, the Air Force hadn’t been formed yet, so the pilots were considered part of the Army Air Corps.
Holmes’ daughter, Emma’s grandmother Carol Keene, remembers flying with her father in his open cockpit bi-plane.
Joanne Hall nearly became a private pilot, but her plans were derailed when her father had a heart attack and she had to return to her home to take care of him for several months.
“I love the Air Force, I love flying, I love everything about planes, I just never picked it back up,” she said.
She has been delighted that Emma has taken an interest in flying now, however, noting that Emma has Joanne’s old pilot log book.
“So all my instructions are at the front of her book,” Joanne said, smiling.
For her part, Emma is thrilled to be paving the way for other young women to take up flying.
“It’s … an honor and a legacy that I want to show girls that they can do the same things that men can,” she said.
Flight instructor Cindy Brickner said less than 15 percent of her students are female.
“For me as a lady flight instructor it’s a treat to get a young lady to teach,” she commented.
Emma has already been encouraging her younger sister, Addy Hall, 13, to start flying. Addy recently signed up for the flight school seminar at DaVinci High School and is looking forward to following in her sister’s footsteps.
Meanwhile, now that she has soloed, Emma is looking to get her private glider’s license and then her powered add-on. She would eventually like to become either a pilot in the military or a commercial pilot.
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