Most sixth-graders spend their weekdays learning the rules of grammar or how to multiply and divide fractions. When Anita White was in the sixth grade, she learned all of that—plus the fundamentals of aerodynamics.
Looking back on it now, White, now a Realtor-Broker with Island Sotheby’s International Realty, says learning to fly at age 11 shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. In fact, it’s safe to say she was preordained to sit in the cockpit: Her mother was a pilot and had an aviation school in White’s hometown of Burbank, California.
And for White, it was love at first flight. “It’s my passion,” she said. “Flying makes me happy.”
In 1989, White moved to Maui and received both her pilot’s license and real estate license. She went on to become a flight instructor and a Big Island volcano tour pilot for Mokulele Airlines. In the early 1990s, she joined the Honolulu-based Aloha 99s, a chapter of The Ninety-Nines, Inc., an international organization of women pilots that works to promote the advancement of aviation through education, scholarships and mutual support.
Founded in 1929 by 99 licensed female pilots (Amelia Earhart was elected the first president of The Ninety-Nines in 1931) and headquartered at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization now has thousands of members in more than 40 countries. Every year, 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 the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s student flying competitions and the Girl Scouts Aviation Day programs.
Membership is open to female aviation aficionados of all stripes, including professional airline pilots, recreational pilots, retired pilots, rookie pilots, flight instructors, and mechanics and technicians. They may come from different walks of life, but all 99s have one thing in common: A passion for flying.
Earlier this year, White and six other female pilots started Maui’s own chapter of the 99s. With a growing membership, the newly minted Maui 99s aims to promote aviation education, mentoring, support and scholarships on the Valley Isle (they also make high-altitude Christmas cookie deliveries to the Kapalua and Molokai control towers).
In July, the Maui 99s hosted 16 Girl Scouts at the Maui Aviators hangar at Kahului Airport as part of Girl Scouts Aviation Day. White and her fellow 99s taught the Girl Scouts the principles of flight through several hands-on activities. Among other things, they demonstrated how an airplane’s wings produce lift (the force that keeps the aircraft aloft as it flies) using a ping-pong ball and hairdryer. They also showed the girls how to build paper airplanes; they put their creations to the test in a spot landing contest.
But what was the highlight of the day? After helping a female pilot preflight an airplane on the tarmac, the girls donned headsets and sat inside the cockpit. They didn’t leave the ground, but something else likely took flight that afternoon: An interest in a high-flying career as a female pilot.
It was White’s fifth year participating in Girl Scouts Aviation Day, and it won’t be her last. She relishes the opportunity to help the girls earn their aviation merit badges, and more importantly, open their eyes to the possibilities of a career in aviation. “I really enjoy it,” she said. “It’s a great way to pay it forward.”
The Maui News – November 18, 2019