It was a flight to remember: On Tuesday, May 18, Lanai High School graduating senior Naupaka Borders sat at the controls of an airplane for the very first time. For Borders, an aspiring pilot bound for the U.S. Air Force this fall, it was a childhood dream come true.
That dream was made possible by Anita White of Island Sotheby’s International Realty, who flew a Cessna 172 from Maui to Lanai that day to give Borders her first flying experience. There is no flight school on Lanai, so White and fellow pilot Elizabeth L’Heureux brought the flight school there, providing an opportunity for Borders to learn firsthand the fundamentals of piloting a plane. That afternoon, the trio took a scenic flight above Lanai, and by the time they landed, a beaming and exhilarated Borders had inked her first hour in her pilot’s log book.
This isn’t the first time White has taken an up-and-coming aviator under her wing. As a member of the Maui chapter of The Ninety-Nines, she routinely helps novice female pilots get off the ground.
Founded in 1929 by 99 licensed female pilots (Amelia Earhart was elected the first president), The Ninety-Nines, also known as The 99s, is a nonprofit with thousands of members in more than 40 countries. Local chapters sponsor educational programs like aerospace workshops for teachers, airport tours for students, fear-of-flying clinics, and flight instructor revalidation seminars. Members also participate in National Intercollegiate Flying Association student competitions and Girl Scouts Aviation Day programs. Apart from stoking interest in a high-flying career, 99s chapters help fledgling pilots navigate the often complex and costly flight training process. Members are female aviation aficionados of all ages and stripes, including professional, recreational, retired and rookie pilots, as well as flight instructors, mechanics and technicians. They come from different walks of life, but have one thing in common: A passion for flying.
White’s path to becoming a member of The 99s began when she learned to fly at the age of 11. In 1989, she moved to Maui and received both her pilot’s license and real estate license. She went on to become a Big Island volcano tour pilot for Mokulele Airlines and a flight instructor. In the early 1990s, White joined the Aloha 99s, a Honolulu-based chapter of The Ninety-Nines (the only chapter in Hawaii at the time).
In 2019, White and five other female pilots started Maui’s own chapter of The Ninety-Nines; White currently serves as the chapter’s treasurer. With a growing membership, the 501(c)3 nonprofit aims to promote aviation education and offer mentoring, support and scholarships to women aviators on the Valley Isle. (They also make high-altitude Christmas cookie deliveries to the Kapalua and Molokai control towers.)
The COVID-19 pandemic put many of the group’s activities on hold over the past year, but they’ve already made their mark in the community. Among other things, they’ve participated in youth STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) events, made classroom visits, and taught local Girl Scouts the science of flight as part of the annual Girl Scouts Aviation Day program.
The Maui 99s are currently raising funds for scholarships to help novice female pilots take flight; donations are always welcome. The group is currently accepting new members. The only requirement to join? A passion for flight. Membership is open to female aviation aficionados of all stripes, including professional, recreational, rookie and retired pilots, as well as flight instructors, mechanics and technicians.
For more information about the Maui 99s or to inquire about membership or donor opportunities, visit www.maui99s.com or https://www.facebook.com/maui99s/. To learn more about the history and mission of The Ninety-Nines, visit www.ninety-nines.org.
The Maui News - June 7, 2021