Latinas in Aviation Magazine

Page 1

No. 1 / MARCH 2021

Olga Custodio Latina pioneer shares what it means to be the first U.S. Latina military pilot. Pg. 38

GETTING STARTED Women achieving dreams outside the comfort zone

Latest trends in the Aviation and Space Industries. Pg. 85

The power of STREAM and its impact on youth Pg. 47

L A T I N A S I N AV I A T I O N . C O M

Photo by: Liliana Mackenzie

Message from the Publisher


reetings! I am Jacqueline Ruiz, CEO of Fig Factor Media, and the creator of Latinas in Aviation Magazine. I’m also the CEO of JJR Marketing, Inc., an award-winning entrepreneur, philanthropist, international speaker,

author to more than 24 books, and one of the few Latina sport airplane pilots in the United States. When my marketing agency took on a small flight training school in Illinois as



a client six years ago, I never imagined it would lead to launching a magazine! But as I learned more about the fascinating world of aviation, I received a “divine download” (or inspiration!) to pursue my pilots license. I knew it would not be easy since I was running two companies, two nonprofits, traveling the world as a speaker, and raising a young family, but I wouldn’t give up. My vision was to FLY my husband to lunch, and that vision kept me focused towards my license, which I completed in 2008! My passion for this industry led to the creation of the anthology, Latinas

in Aviation, a collection of personal stories from Latinas, chronicling their experiences, challenges and triumphs in the industry. The book was a huge success, and afterwards, a dear friend of mine, Ana Uribe-Ruiz, from the Bay Area Chapter of Women in Aviation International, inspired the idea to create this magazine. It was the perfect way to continue supporting diversity and inclusion within aviation by inspiring, promoting, and educating the next generation of Latina women. Within these pages you will find success stories from the underrepresented women in the male-dominated industries of aviation and space, who share stories about their education, career advancement, mentorship opportunities, financial assistance options, and access to STEM education programs. My hope is our efforts will pave the way for more young Latinas to extend their wings through publications, scholarships, and programs.

Latinas in Aviation Magazine is yet another way that I extend the magic I feel in my heart every time I take someone for a flight, see their smile as they enjoy it, or send a young Latina one of my famous #Pilotina teddy bears. Please enjoy and share this edition with others, so they too can feel the magic and excitement that Latinas in aviation share. After all, Latinas understand that taking off is optional, but landing… especially on your dreams… is mandatory! Sincerely,


Jacqueline Ruiz- Latinas in Aviation Publisher, Founder

Table of Contents




CALL HER LT. COLONEL: Olga Esther Nevarez Custodio


My International Adventure to Engineering - Berenice Eréndira Ortíz Alfaro


Latino Pilot Association - Claudia Zapata-Cardone


CEIG-ASPA de México - Captain Martha Vera Araujo


The Sky is Not the Limit - Ana Uribe-Ruiz



A Dream Come True - Captain Viridiana Ramírez


Bringing the Dream to Life - Captain Martha Vera Araujo


Life in Intelligence - Nathalie Pauwels


Daring to Become a Dispatcher - María Liga Sánchez


Technology Rising Star - Martha Cervantes


Roots and Wings - Alejandra Uriarte Ibarra


Behind the Pilot: A Trainer’s Tale - Nayhelli Sánchez


Pushing to be a Pilot - Gabriela Valderramos


Not Easy, but Not Impossible - Captain Miriam Hernández


HORYZN - Alejandra Uriarte Ibarra








Wisdom from the Sky - Featuring Captain Linda Pauwels


Student Tool Kit Resources and More


News and Trends



Copyright © 2021 Latinas in Aviation Magazine is published semi-annual on ISSUU by Latinas in Aviation, U.S.A. This is a product of © Fig Factor Media LLC 2021. All rights reserved. No part of this digital magazine may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage or retrieval systems, or otherwise be copied for public use or private use without written permission of the copyright owner, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review. For any request or information please email: 1 | TABLE OF CONTENTS

MEET OUR CORRESPONDENTS Our correspondents are located across the globe and bring you many of the wonderful stories you will read in this magazine. They are pilots, engineers, teachers, mentors and aviation and aerospace devotees. We are proud to introduce you to our awesome team of correspondents, as we thank them for their collaboration and contribution.


JACQUELINE PULIDO is a native of Mexico where she

as a Transformational Manager at Airbus Defense and

Alliance Aviation. With a passion to fly from a very early age

Space. Elena holds a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical

and support from her family, Jackie followed in her father’s

engineering from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

footsteps and became a private pilot when she was 17. At

She has more than 30 years of experience in various

age 19, she obtained her commercial pilot license.

grew up in Spain, and currently works in Munich-Germany

military aviation programs, covering all aspects of the aerospace product lifecycle including system design, testing, qualification, and production. Elena has been recognized as playing a vital leadership role in adapting and finding innovative ways of working within the organization and has been honored with a laudatory report. She is certified from the Project Management Institute as a PMP (Project Management Professional) and is also an accredited Executive Coach. She founded “Elevate3” to provide leadership and personal coaching. Her Motto: “We

do not have to be perfect; we only have to be great with the resources we have, at any given time!”


currently resides as an A320FAM Simulator Instructor for

At the age of 23, she became the first woman pilot at Volaris Airlines. By the time she reached 28, through hard work, patience, and perseverance, she was promoted to an A320FAM Captain. Throughout her journey, Jackie has had the opportunity to be a flight instructor, and a flight safety officer in the Flight Operations Quality Assurance department (FOQA) for Viva Aerobus. Recently, she decided to take a break from the airlines so she could enjoy her role as a mother and wife. Her motto: “Enjoy each step of the way as you climb the mountain. Each experience will build your character. It’s not only about reaching the summit,” from her mom, Agueda Alvarado.

ANA URIBE-RUIZ is from Quito-Ecuador, and currently

resides near the Bay Area in San Francisco, California.

She is the Co-President of Women in Aviation (WAI) San Francisco Bay Area Chapter and founder of the WAI Costa Rica Chapter. She is a mentor for aviation and STREAM, and believes that mentorship is “key for the next generation to take us further.” Ana grew up in an aviation family, but studied finance. She became a banker and then an insurance professional. She started her pilot training shortly after moving to California with her husband, who is also a pilot. She has a son diagnosed with autism and is involved with the Special Needs community. She also leads the Institute of Women of Aviation Week (iWOAW) in California and is the only private pilot with a Jefferson Award for Public Service for bringing women into the aviation world. Her motto: “The sky is never the limit, but the beginning of a Journey.”

SPECIAL THANKS: Jacqueline Camacho Ruiz, Juan

Pablo Ruiz, Priscilla Alarcon, Karen Dix, Manuel Serna, Irene Balado, Scarlett Magana, Gabriela Hernández-

Franch, Olga Esther Nevarez Custodio, Viridiana Ramírez, Martha Vera Araujo, Linda Pauwels, Nathalie Pauwels, Berenice Eréndira Ortíz Alfaro, María Liga Sánchez, Claudia Zapata-Cardone, Martha Cervantes, Alejandra Uriarte Ibarra, Nayhelli Sánchez, Gabriella Valderramos, Miriam Hernández, Clara Germani, Sarah Matusek, Luis Armando Díaz, Abigail Virgen, Amanda C. Zrebiec, Craig Weiman, Liliana Mackenzie.


Editors Note Welcome to our much anticipated, inaugural issue of Latinas In Aviation

Magazine! Only a few months have passed since we started 2021, and although we are still in pandemic mode, we are also experiencing new beginnings as we take action on our New Year’s resolutions and make plans for the year ahead. Undoubtedly, 2020 hit the Latino community hard. Massive unemployment rates left many scrambling to make ends meet, and parents learned to work side by side with their children as they learned remotely. Last year also brought some PRISCILLA ALARCON - Editor in Chief

amazing opportunities for stillness, taking a break from our day-to-day routine, learning to enjoy the present, and reevaluating our dreams and aspirations. Most importantly, it reminded us that we should live each day to the fullest and always aim for our dreams.

Latinas in Aviation Magazine was born through this pandemic, inspiring each and every one of us on the editorial team to create content that will inspire, motivate, and create purpose for you to move forward and aim for the sky. These pages are full of stories that reflect a life well lived, goals reached, and lessons learned by Latina women who succeeded amidst rejection, chaos, and financial hardship. Many times they were told “no,” but that didn’t stop them. On the contrary, it made them push harder towards their aspirations in aviation, space, and STEM industries. Juntas, podemos! KAREN DIX - Managing Editor

We invite you to become part of our mission. Please let us know if you have story ideas, wish to advertise, or would like to contribute to the magazine in some way. We welcome your thoughts. Contact us at Now more than ever, Latinas must stand together and support one another. I hope you find meaning in these stories of triumph, success, and dreams come true. May they inspire you to dare to be greater, believe in yourself, and aim for your dreams! - Priscilla Alarcon


In English & Spanish

Stories of passion, power, and breaking into the aviation industry




A Dream


By Capt. Viridiana Ramírez


ver since I can remember, I would look up at the sky and wonder what it would feel like to fly. The idea of flying always seemed incredible to me and

even to this day, I still say it is something amazing. As a child, I couldn’t sleep for days before going on vacation because I was so excited to know I was getting on a plane. The simple thought of going to the airport, dressing elegantly, walking through the corridors, carrying

The Journey Begins

my suitcase, and watching the crews go by was somehow magical to me. I remember looking outside the window and saying,“When

I grow up, I want to fly.” Even though I did not have any

I studied morning, afternoon, and night, and as I learned, my love for aviation grew. I finished the training to become a private pilot very quickly, but unfortunately, the flight

family or connections in the aviation field, I knew that I was

hours were very expensive so I told my parents that I was

meant to be a pilot, crossing the skies. In high school, I

going to get a job.

started to investigate the possibility of becoming a woman pilot, and I was very surprised to learn that we had the same opportunities as men. I also discovered that there were aviation schools with payment plans, which could

make my dream come true.


To stay involved with aviation, I looked for a way to become a flight attendant. I was excited to continue having contact with airplanes, keep up my studying, and work at the same time. I applied, took exams, and Volaris Airlines opened the doors for me to become a flight attendant. I signed a contract in 2006. My plan was to become the best flight attendant I could be without neglecting my greatest goal, which was to become a pilot. I moved up the flight attendant chain of command until I became Head of the Cabin while still continuing with my flight hours. Once I received my private pilot’s license, I immediately started my commercial pilot training. I used the

One afternoon, I told my parents that I wanted to become a pilot. They were greatly surprised, but at the same time, they were filled with great emotion since I was the first in the family to choose this type of career. They always supported me in making my dreams come true.


vacation I had earned as a flight attendant for my studies.


eing a flight attendant was a great experience. I learned a lot and have thousands of anecdotes to tell, but while it was an important stage in my life,

I knew that I had to continue working towards my dream. And my biggest dream of all was to be able to fly an Airbus. I continued studying and working, and with the great help of my parents, I finished my commercial pilot certification three years later. One day, I applied for a very competitive First Officer position at Volaris. There were 100 pilots competing and only 10 first officer positions available. It was not easy. However, I was incredibly happy when they told me that I had passed all the required exams. It was an incredible feeling that I will never forget because I knew that the adventure was just beginning. In 2009, I started my training to become pilot of an A320FAM.

Airbus or Bust


First Officer training was incredible. I was the only woman in my group of ten, and there were very few women in the company. We supported each other in everything, and the whole experience was very cool. At last, my dream was coming true. Throughout the process, I took lots of responsibility and showed a great deal of commitment in order to stay the course and be successful in the end. The day I got my license to fly the A320FAM with my name on it, I was super mega excited. My family was beyond joyful, and extremely proud and excited as I shared how I conquered each step towards my goal. I was so filled with happiness that on my first flights I couldn’t believe where I was. I was a pilot, preparing for a flight, having everything ready, and wearing the uniform and wings, walking through airports. I could feel how people and children looked at me in amazement and admiration. And, there are no words to describe the opportunity to see each sunrise and sunset from the cockpit.




n 2011, Jimena, my daughter and beautiful princess,

Giving my daughter all my time when I am home is

was born. She is the reason I keep improving myself

something I can do. I have been adapting to each stage of

and moving forward, a little more each day. Many

her life and she to mine, ever since she was a baby. Every

people asked me, “Now what are you going to do? Are you

time I left for a flight, I would talk to her as if she were an

going to leave flying after studying so hard? Are you going

adult. It sounds strange, but we understood each other.

to be able to do it all? Who is going to help take care of

When I returned, there was laughter and games. Now my

her?” There were many questions, but I never felt like the

daughter is almost ten years old and is incredibly smart and

world was closing in on me. On the contrary, my daughter

very independent.

arrived at a perfect moment in my life. She is my miracle which has made me a better person. My family supported me through everything, and were always by my side. It’s important to manage yourself, know how to give quality time to your family, and make them feel that you are always with them, even when you are away.

I kept flying and developing myself as a pilot until another great day came. I was invited to be captain. I couldn’t believe it. The challenge was daunting, but I continued preparing to take on this great responsibility. In 2015, my final exam day arrived. Again, I was incredulous when they told me, “Congratulations, you are now captain of an Airbus 320.” It was an incredibly emotional moment and my daughter, my family, and my friends were all



extremely proud of me.

Volaris Family


finally believed that I was the captain of an Airbus when the day came for my first flight on the airline. I was asked about absolutely everything and had full

responsibility for my crew, passengers, clients and plane. At last, my dream had completely come true. And so the flights went on, and I continuously learned from and enjoyed each day. I love creating a great team with all my co-workers. I have some very quiet days but also some days filled with pure adrenaline. I continued studying and preparing myself for more, and to my surprise, in 2019 they invited me to be a part of the training department and become a Flight Instructor Captain. Of course, I said yes. It is a new and even bigger challenge, but one I have enjoyed very much. I have learned even more, and I love being able to help others. I’m happy to be able to teach and share a little of the knowledge that I have acquired over almost 15 years of service with what I call my “great Volaris family.” I am proud of the company, and life has taught me that making our dreams come true has everything to do with the passion with which we do things. Believe in yourself and in everything you do. There is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle. For me, it has not been easy. Every achievement requires great effort but it has all been worth it. Don’t abandon your dreams, fight a little more, day by day to fulfill them. And on the day by day, to be able to fulfill them. And on the day you reach that dream, you will


remember the journey fondly and finally believe the truth. Dreams do come true!

Sinópsis: La Capitana Viridiana Ramírez cuenta con 15 años de antigüedad. Trabajó como sobrecargo de Volaris. Luego obtuvo su licencia de piloto comercial y llegó a ser la única mujer de los 10 pilotos elegidos entre 100 para ser primera oficial en Volaris. Tras un riguroso entrenamiento, pudo volar el A320FAM. En 2015 se convirtió en capitán del Airbus 320 y en 2019 pasó a ser capitán-instructor de vuelo.


BRINGING the Dream to Life

By Captain Martha Vera Araujo


y name is Martha Vera Araujo, and I’m a selfdeclared dreamer and enthusiastic person. I love working and fighting to achieve my goals.

I remember I was only six years old when I decided that I wanted to become a commercial pilot and fly for one of the most important airlines in Mexico. I started working towards my dream early!


All through my childhood and adolescence, I told family, friends, and schoolmates about my plans to become an aviator. Everyone called me Tita, and I liked to imagine and draw myself on an airplane, sitting in the cockpit at the controls. It was my “dream in a drawing.” I had to endure people’s jokes, ridicule, and incredulous comments, but my father always supported me and belived in my dream, which helped me stay focused, work hard, and prepare for success.

Aviation Influences

I studied and obtained both my private and commercial pilot license from Mexican aviation schools, and although some of them did not accept women, the Francisco

My daddy, Capt. Guillermo Vera Urbina, was an airline pilot

Sarabia and Aeronáutica Panamericana School received

and I loved listening to his adventures. He helped me fall in

me without a problem. They were inclusive in every way

love with the magical world that is aviation. I affectionately

since my first day there.

remember how my three siblings and I would get up early to greet him when he returned home after several days of flying. We would look in his luggage for gifts, because he always brought something back to us from his travels; but above all I enjoyed putting on his cap and imagining that one day I could also have the same exciting experiences that he did. 10 | CAPT. MARTHA VERA ARAUJO



n 1989, the same year I obtained my commercial pilot license, a major Mexican airline went bankrupt and more than 400 pilots were laid off. The search for a

position as a commercial pilot became a real challenge, but I was lucky to find friends and colleagues in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco to help me. They not only supported me and gave me the opportunity to fly, but also helped me continue accumulating my flight hours, first in a corporate plane and then by obtaining my first paying job, flying a Piper PA-23 for the Bank of Mexico. Upon accumulating 500 hours of flight, I made the decision to apply for a new airline that was being formed in the city of Monterrey. Finally, in 1991, I was accepted into the airline and I moved there. This is also were I currently reside. Years later, I married Enrique Vázquez and we have two beautiful daughters, Viviana and Ana Paula. My mother, Martha Araujo, helped us take care of them in their first years of their life so that I could continue with my professional growth and development.


First Females In my new company, I was able to fly the Metro III, despite the fact that the chief pilot had threatened me and my colleague, Capt. Sandra Villafán, because we were women. He actually said that as long as he was the boss in the company, “no woman would touch his planes.” Those were his actual words. However, there were other instructors

Pho to b yC a

. pt

aV dr n Sa

fán illa

who gave us all their support. It was satisfying to us when in 1993, Sandra and I made our first commercial flight in the country with an entire female crew on board. Later, I also had the opportunity to obtain the promotion to captain and finally transfer to the headquarters of the company in 1997. I have achieved my greatest professional development within my 23 years at the same company.



often feel that I have surpassed my initial dreams because I have had the opportunity to fly as first officer of many aircraft types like DC9, MD80/MD88, B767,

B757, and B777. It was also an honor to be part of the crew on the airline’s inaugural flight to Asia in 2006. I also had the opportunity to fly a charter jet to South Africa, which contributed to my experience of flying in four different continents. That was a dream that I considered difficult to achieve, but I am able to attest that with dedication and effort, everything is possible.

IN 2011, I WAS PROMOTED TO THE POSITION OF CAPTAIN OF THE B737.” In 2011, I was promoted to the position of Captain of the B737. By sharing the cabin with different pilots and younger newcomers to the company and /or aeronautical environment, I was able to raise awareness about the importance of joining forces to improve conditions related to the different needs of our genders. I wanted to help make this beautiful profession visible among younger women and girls and be a mentor to them as they pursued their dreams and goals. So together with other colleagues, I helped form the Equity and Equality Commission of the

Asociación Sindical de Pilotos Aviadores (ASPA) of México, the organization representing the rights of pilots in the workplace.


Leading the Way


orking for the Mexican pilots’ union, it has been possible to improve various conditions within our company, including the granting of benefits

and accommodations for the different biological stages that women face, such as maternity and lactation. By 2021, we

will have formed the official Gender Secretariat*, which must always be chaired by a woman. From there we will support and drive different projects to benefit all pilots by creating fairer societies that are more equitable and inclusive in the workplace, family, and social sectors. For two years now, I have served as captain of the B787 and I feel very blissful, happy, and grateful to be able to close my eyes and remember little Tita and her drawings of herself on a plane. Then I open my eyes in gratitude that my “dream in drawing” has really come true! I take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank God, my parents, my wonderful husband and daughters, colleagues, and instructors, whose patience and teachings have motivated me to continue fighting for my ideals. We should never allow someone to destroy or diminish our dreams. Instead, we should always strive to achieve them because EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE! * ADDITION AS OF PRESS TIME: Capt. Martha Vera is pleased to announce that on March 2, 2021 she was elected as the first woman to hold the Gender Secretariat position for ASPA. Join us in congratulating her on this historic achievement!


Join us in congratulating her on this historic achievement.

La Capitana Martha Vera Araujo obtuvo su licencia de piloto comercial en 1989. Sus inicios fueron en Guadalajara, Jalisco, en un avión corporativo. Voló un Metro III tras acumular 500 horas de vuelo. Desde 1997 es capitán y voló como primera oficial aeronaves como: DC9, MD80/MD88, B767, B757 y la B777. En 2011 la asignaron capitán del B737. Forma parte de la Asociación Sindical de Pilotos Aviadores (ASPA) de México.



Intelligence By Nathalie Pauwels


athalie Pauwels is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and an Intelligence Officer for the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC) reserve

unit 0194. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2014. As a civilian, she enrolled in the American Airlines Cadet program and is expected to graduate in March 2021. Her Hispanic heritage is multifaceted, with a mother and grandmother from Argentina, and ancestral roots in the Canary Islands (Santa Cruz de Tenerife).

Your parents were pilots but you chose to serve your country in the Navy. Tell us about your experience and your inspiration for your decisions. I have always felt an innate calling to the services. My maternal great-grandfather, Franciszek Edward Pfeiffer was a general in the Polish army during WWII and my paternal grandfather was an officer in the Belgian navy serving in Africa. Having a family history in foreign militaries is interesting, but not my impetus for becoming an officer. I joined to serve the United States in gratitude for giving my parents the opportunity to come to this country and become successful airline pilots (and parents!). But I think I did not follow in my parents’ footsteps because I felt the need to forge my own path, one which nobody in my recent family had travelled, and I did not want to be perpetually compared to both of my high-performing

The experiences I have had at the Naval Academy, in the Navy, and now as a new pilot, have created a story that belongs to me and no one else, and for that, I am eternally thankful. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, I selected a career in naval intelligence. I was discouraged because I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, which disqualified me from a more traditional line of work in the Navy. Nevertheless, after having worked in intelligence for almost seven years (five in active duty and a year and a half in the reserves), I can say that often the best and most fitting jobs come about unexpectedly.

parents. As I have aged, however, I realized that having both parents in such a unique line of work is something to be proud of and any pressure I felt was created by me.

“Often the best and most fitting jobs come about unexpectedly.” 14 | NATHALIE PAUWELS


As an Intelligence Officer, my area of expertise has been providing threat and geopolitical assessments and constructing mission sets for aviation units. I have been on three carriers supporting a helicopter squadron and part of a land-based special mission P-3 squadron. I have been deployed to Japan, Greece, Chile, Peru, and Brazil. I have made the strongest friendships (which is unusual for me as an introvert), worked mission days of 20+ hours, deployed away from home for holidays, birthdays, and traveled the world. To describe the deployments and experiences as anything short of incredible would not do them justice.

Sounds incredible! How has COVID-19 affected your career development? Navigating the new COVID-19 environment has presented an interesting challenge. I officially started with the American Airlines Cadet Academy in April of 2019 and reported to Crew Training International (CTI) Professional Flight Training in Millington, Tennessee for my first day on September 11, 2019. Unfortunately, our school closed for two months at the beginning of 2020, so I stayed with my mom in Texas, waiting for training to start up again. The delays have continued since then, and a lot of the cadet training timelines, including my own, have been extended past their initial estimated completion dates. I just started my Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) pipeline and hope to complete my training by March 2021.

Pursuing a career in aviation may be more difficult given the effects COVID-19 has had on the airline industry. Many cadets are stressed about finding jobs post-training, including me. In September, I chose to submit a package to return to full time active duty. I received a call the day before Thanksgiving and was told that I was accepted and can report in April of 2021. I chose a duty station in Florida since that will allow me to continue flying and teaching during my off time so I can build my hours and be ready when the industry recovers. I think the most important thing I learned during this pandemic was to remain flexible and stay optimistic. The Female Aviators Stick Together (FAST) group on Facebook has proven to be a good resource in that it encouraged a lot of aviators to seek other avenues of work to help weather this storm. Having something to fall back on has been an unexpected blessing and has given me the peace of mind to continue flying and teaching. My recommendation is that flight students have a plan B, C, D, etc. After seeing what my parents have lived through in the airline industry-- furloughs, bankruptcies, mergers, etc.-- the security of the job is never certain and it would be prudent to at least have something on the backburner during those lulls in hiring.


Can you share how COVID-19 is affecting your work in the Navy? COVID-19 has affected the military sphere of my life, and everyone in it. My last training was cut short because the country began shutting down. Deployment schedules have been extended, changed, and canceled. People are separated from their families and loved ones because the military has imposed more stringent travel restrictions than individual states. We must quarantine for two weeks anytime we go to another location for training or deployment, which extends the time away from family.


What advice do you have to current women wanting to join the military or to become pilots? I have never regretted joining the military. It is one of the best things you can do to ensure some measure of job security and it allows you to venture into career paths and visit places you may never see otherwise. Do as much research as possible to determine which service is best for your needs and interests, as they all offer something different. All tracks will undoubtedly be challenging, especially now in the time of COVID-19, but you will grow as a person and a leader. Reach out to people and join social groups catering to female military members on Facebook or other platforms to ask questions and collect as many resources as possible before deciding to join. It is not for everyone, but for those who feel it is their calling, consider applying to military colleges--ROTC, OCS- Officer Candidate School (for those with degrees already)-- to get your higher education out of the way. If you are already considering joining the military and want to fly, military pilots will have the added bonus of transitioning to the airlines when finished with their commitments. Given what I have already said about having a back-up plan, you can fly in the military and then stay in the reserves to keep flying in case there is a lull in the industry!


For those like me who are not military pilots, applying to airline cadet programs (for example, American Airlines) will get you through all your ratings and help guide you through your hour-building requirements. Alternatively, you can go to a university that offers a flight program and work on your ratings while getting a degree! Examples are Embry Riddle, University of North Dakota, Liberty, and University of Memphis, just to name a few. Apply for as many scholarships as you can--the 99s, Women in Aviation International (WAI), and those offered by individual schools--to help ease the financial burden.

Any feedback, advice, tools, that you would give someone your age, knowing what you know now that you didn’t know when you started? Do not be afraid to ask questions or let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. There is no pressure to “be an adult.” Live life the way you want and to the fullest of your ability. Call your family. If you are in any leadership position, protect and respect your people and your team. Even the most difficult people will teach you something. But most importantly, conduct your life with honor and integrity. Your reputation is yours to keep and yours to lose. Fight fervently to defend your image and always do the right thing.


Sinópsis: Nathalie Pauwels es Teniente de la Armada de los Estados Unidos y Oficial de Inteligencia del Centro de Desarrollo de Guerra de la Aviación Naval. Fue parte de la tripulación de tres portaaviones de apoyo a un escuadrón de helicópteros y parte de un escuadrón de misión especial P-3 con base en tierra. Prestó servicio en Japón, Grecia, Chile, Perú y Brasil. En 2019 estudió en la Academia de Cadetes de American Airlines. Actualmente se entrena para ser Instructor de Vuelo Certificado (CFI).


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My International Adventure

TO ENGINEERING O axaca, Mexico, la verde antequera (the green

city), is my hometown. It’s a beautiful town in

southwest Mexico. To reach Oaxaca, you need

to travel six hours from Mexico City by car and cross the

mountains full of green cactus, driving through a protected, natural area. Every time I fly home, I am amazed by Oaxaca’s colors, nature, culture, food, and people. If I love my hometown so much, you might be wondering why I decided to pack up and leave it. The answer is simple: I wanted to discover and see the world as an engineer, and after I had experienced other cultures, languages, and ways of working, I intended to return home.

The Road to Engineering In 1994, there was a strong economic crisis in Mexico. Several months before it hit, my father was building our house, the home of our dreams. One day the peso devalued 200 percent and we were afraid the banks were going to repossess our home and leave us penniless. Luckily, we have family that helped us get through this difficult situation. From that day on, I decided to work hard so I would never see my parents worried about losing everything. I wanted to be in a position to fully support them, if necessary, so I decided I was going to be the best at everything. Today, I might not be the best at what I do, although I certainly am very good at it. As a woman in engineering,


I am an ambassador, not only of my family, but of my country and the women of Latin America. I strive for the highest level of excellence required to do the job well. 19 | BERENICE ERÉNDIRA ORTÍZ ALFARO


love and respect my culture, especially in Oaxaca where we have a strong bond to our indigenous traditions, and know how to support each other. As

part of a folkloric group, we visited the United States, Costa Rica, and different cities of Mexico. La Piña (the ananas dance) is a dance where we all hold each other in a line. If one girl falls, all of us do. Once I almost fell down, and thanks to the other girls that held me up, we finished the dance together, as one, as a team. From that experience, I learned I will never succeed alone; I learned the importance of team spirit and shared achievements. Even as a child, I was very involved in my father’s research and field projects. We visited many poor towns in la Mixteca, including ours (San Andrés Lagunas, Oaxaca), to promote engineering practices for local sustainable development. My father always brought his engineering students from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional de México, where he is still a professor for innovation and sustainable technology. Some of his projects included the design and construction of machines to process local wool and produce bricks for construction; set up of rural ovens to produce nutritious bread and cookies to stimulate the local economy with healthy products; introduction of the principles of management and finance to new microbusiness owners; design, construction, and setting guidelines to produce clean yogurt, cheese, mushrooms and rural prawn farming, and so many more. These activities were mostly focused on empowering native women from Oaxaca, who were often left alone with their children when their husbands emigrated to the United States to pursue the American dream.


My father says the Politécnico engineers have a motto: “La

técnica al servicio de la patria,” which means “The use of technique for the benefit of the country and its people.” I found this mission very inspiring. It was a mission of sharing all you know for the good of society, a mission of bringing development to those who needed it the most, and a humble mission of engineers who love their country and wanted to see it prosper. I decided quite early that I also wanted to become an engineer and lead by example as my father always does. 20 | BERENICE ERÉNDIRA ORTÍZ ALFARO

Following the Dream


or me, becoming a female engineer was normal. I was lucky to have two aunts who were the very first women engineers in Mexico! One of them is a

mechanical engineer, and the other is an agricultural engineer. To pursue my studies, I moved to the city of Puebla, Mexico. I left Oaxaca with tears in my eyes, not from sadness, but because my father was not really convinced I should leave home to study. Now I understand he was afraid to lose me because he loves me. I learned then that love can be demonstrated in different forms; sometimes it hurts, and then it makes you stronger. At school, there were many times I wanted to go home. I missed my family, and university was not as easy as I expected. My mother told me what I needed to hear, the same words that sound in my head every time I want to give up: “No, you can’t come back. You have to stand up and fight for your dreams!” So I did. I graduated as an industrial engineer from the University of las Américas Puebla (UDLAP) with the help of several


scholarships. In one of my last classes, a professor asked us what we wanted to do next and I answered, “I want to get a master of science degree abroad.” I will never forget how he laughed at me and responded, “You better start working! Graduate study abroad programs are not for

Classes at TUHH were in English while we were improving our German skills. However, there were only books in German, and the documents were not translated yet. So,

women.” Well, I am happy I proved him wrong.

among the new friends I made in class, we split up the

In 2003 I arrived in Germany, sponsored by the German

by ourselves. We were an international team of committed

Academic Exchange Service - Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) Scholarship. As part of the scholarship, I needed to pass a German language exam within three months. Impossible? Maybe, but not when your whole two-year scholarship for your master’s degree depends on it. Then, believe me, you start to breathe, to smell, to dream, and finally, to write and speak in German. And even without writing proficiency (which is understandable, since it is not my native language), I

books and documents and translated them word by word engineers willing to succeed in Germany together, because alone, it was clear that it was impossible. Once again, I put my “teamwork” skills into practice and learned to deal with “international and intercultural diversity.” Plus, I considerably improved my German proficiency. Once more, this experience showed me that learning and networking are very important both in your professional and personal life, and I recommend it to anyone.

passed the exam with a very good score, and earned the right to continue study for a master’s degree in international production management at the Technical University of Hamburg Harburg (TUHH).


The Aerospace and Aeronautical Dream


n 2006, I graduated from TUHH. It was very difficult to find a job in Germany as a foreigner and a non-European. Normally, you need a contract in order to get a work

permit, and you also need a work permit in order to get a contract. One day, I was invited to interview at Airbus. It was completely unexpected, and I couldn’t believe it. It was a dream come true! The timing was also perfect, as I only had a credit card to buy a ticket and fly back home in case I couldn’t get a job. I was already broke. When I met my future boss, I explained that if he really wanted me, he needed to be clear and straightforward. I told him my economic situation and was honest, direct, and firm. Four


months later, in August 2006, I joined Airbus as a Supply Chain Quality Manager in Hamburg Germany. This was the beginning of an adventure that I’m still on today. As a newcomer, though, I was full of doubts. Could I do the job? Was my German good enough? Would they understand me? Would I understand them? Soon I realized I needed to learn another language--Airbus acronyms. They were a nightmare, but not impossible to learn. Sometimes, though, I just could not follow the conversation. I was new and nobody is born with a chip full of Airbus knowledge in their head. I felt bad and even sad sometimes, and there were days I wanted to quit. People even laughed at me because I was “the new, young, foreigner woman” who needed to learn everything. I was also the first woman engineer to work within the team, which was comprised of 40 German men, most of them older than me.

Every afternoon when I got home, I nursed my pain and then picked myself back up and returned to work the next morning with my head up, my self-esteem and dignity intact, ready again to do my best work. Back then, I couldn’t understand how difficult it was for my colleagues to work without the state-of-the-art change management processes and tools we have today. All I knew was I needed to survive and be excellent, so there would be no complaint about my work. And I succeeded! One of my best newcomer memories is the moment I visited the production line of the A380 for the first time. I was speechless and had never thought that one day I would be at Airbus, standing in front of the world’s largest aircraft production line. I realized then how amazing the aeronautic industry was. A few years later, while working in the International Branding Department, I got to know the helicopter and aerospace industries better and fell in love with Airbus products.


I am very proud to belong to this great Airbus family and lead a team of engineers there. It is one of the best experiences I have ever had. Managing, leading, and being accountable for a group of excellent human beings and their development is a great responsibility. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly very rewarding.



y team contributes from the earliest stage of

My curiosity helps me to have the focus, intention,

aircraft production, the engineering. We use a

discipline, and perseverance to surpass challenges. My

Design Right First Time model, which eliminates

secret? I don’t believe in the “impossible.” I believe in hard

errors in aircraft fuselage design, as well as potential problems

work and I am a very positive person. My mom told me that

during production and in service. Our solutions reduce costs,

if I already have the “no,” I should try again and I might get

improve our products and service, and uphold our company’s

a “yes.” So I try, and most of the time I get my reward for

reputation. We also monitor and survey engineering activities

the hard work. Sometimes it doesn’t come immediately, so

in order to be compliant with aeronautic regulations and keep

I have learned to be patient as well.

our DOA (Design Organization Approval), which shows that we comply with all aeronautic requirements. A DOA holder can perform design activities within the scope of approval and independently from the aeronautic agency. It’s basically the right and permission to design aircrafts.

I love networking, and it is a natural quality for many Latinos. Let’s just say we have it in our blood. We love to make friends, we are open and authentic, and this is why we connect easily with many people. As a Mexican Latina, I feel blessed that so many people know my country and it makes me happy to promote my hometown of Oaxaca

Becoming My Best

during my conversations.

I took a “strengths test” from Don Clifton a couple of years

Home to My Roots

ago and I was described as a connector and learning person. Indeed, I am known for continuously improving my skills and reinventing myself. My curiosity also helps me develop abilities to connect with others and enlarge my network. Since I was little, I have felt the need to learn different languages to connect with different people and cultures. These languages have opened doors for me to many professional opportunities. I have met many interesting people all over the world, and have worked in different fields, such as logistics, procurement, lean, quality, production, human resources, and quality engineering. Every day I work in four languages (Spanish, English,

Every Christmas I start the countdown until I reach Oaxacan soil. I am like an eagle who flies back to the nest every year. In 2019, I flew back in a beautiful A380, my most favorite aircraft, next to the Beluga. When I arrive, I hug and kiss my parents, my sister, my family, and my friends. I look forward to eating mole, a traditional, chocolate-based sauce from my region, and I celebrate the new year with the family, drinking a good Mezcal, the “beverage of the gods,” as we say back home.

Welcome, Berenice!

French, and German) with colleagues in many other countries.




will never forget where I come from and the family who made me the professional woman I am. I thank my father for teaching me the value of hard work, pursuing delivery

“right first time” and “on quality.” I thank him for sharing all his knowledge on research and development with me and his profound love and respect for this hometown, La Mixteca de

Oaxaca. He inspired me to be the Industrial Quality Manager I am today. I thank my mother for teaching me that courage is inside of me and fear shouldn’t overshadow it. I thank her for the soft skills and marketing knowledge she shared with me. Today, I am a manager thanks to her. She taught me how to never quit!

And last but not least, I thank the universe for giving me the person I have shared my life with since the day she was born, my sister. She is my best friend and constant companion. During and after my divorce, she taught me that challenges in life are there to make us stronger, and family is always there for me. She never let me alone in the ups and downs of my roller coaster life. Today, I live in Hamburg, Germany with my boyfriend and soul partner, and I am still on this great adventure. I am ready for new challenges and to discover more countries, cultures, and exciting stories.


My message to you is simple: Live life to the maximum, and live a life that is worth sharing with others!

Sinópsis: Berenice Eréndira Ortíz Alfaro nació en Oaxaca, México. Es Ingeniera Industrial por la Universidad de las Américas —siguiendo los pasos de su padre y dos de sus tías que fueron las primeras ingenieras de México—. Obtuvo una beca para completar su maestría en Alemania en 2003. Desde 2006 es Gerente de Calidad y Abastecimiento de Airbus en Hamburgo, Alemania.


available on


n their book, Living the Amazing, Jackie Camacho Ruiz along with her husband and coauthor Juan Pablo Ruiz set down seven powerful principles in an interactive reader experience that intermingles prose with breathtaking design. A few pages in, you’re not dwelling on the past or how it could shape your future, but realizing life is amazing right now! Each chapter offers you both a male and female perspective, with a variety of short and easy to read selections of love, loss and life. These simple yet profound tips help you on your journey to discover what life has in store for you while intermingling beautiful art designs throughout. Come and welcome the amazing life that awaits you!


DARING to Become a Dispatcher By Correspondent Ana Uribe Ruiz


he aviation community is very small, and the number of women working as pilots or in other areas of the industry is even smaller. Latinas

create an even smaller subset of these women. Therefore, it’s important for women in aviation to exchange ideas and stories about how they got into their current position through social media, friends, co-workers, home countries/ cultures or travels. In the following Q&A with María Liga Sánchez, a native of Costa Rica now living in Dubai, we learn how she’s managed to follow her dream.

AUR: How did you land in Dubai?


MLS: In Costa Rica, I graduated from a technical high school with a major in accounting. I originally wanted to work in a bank, but I ended up working as a security officer at the airport. I made sure things were done efficiently and effectively on the ramp and in the backend of the airport. I fell in love with the airport and wanted that role to be a stepping stone to finding a job with an airline. After five months, I applied to TACA (Transportes Aéreos del Continente Americano) and got a job working at the counter. Two years later, I realized that I wanted to be a dispatcher. I enrolled in dispatcher classes at the local airport in Pavas and got my license in just over a year. Then I secured an internship with LACSA (Líneas Aéreas Costarricenses S.A.) and became a dispatcher in Costa Rica. At the time, I was still working with a different airline, so they asked me to resign from TACA and join the LACSA family. 26 | MARÍA LIGA SÁNCHEZ


After six years with LACSA, the company was acquired by Avianca. During that transition, many pilots and local employees were let go, including me. I felt lost, but still had an intense love of aviation in a small country with few opportunities for growth within the industry. At least I had a degree in business administration to fall back on. I ended up in a call center for airline reservations. It really was not the life I had envisioned for myself. After five months, I started working at a logistics company in the international division. Soon I knew it was time for me to get back into aviation. I started applying again to the local airlines, but I also realized that it was time to expand my horizons. People say go big or go home, but in my case, I went international! I applied to Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad Airlines. Qatar interviewed me, but their process was very selective, and I was not hired.

To be completely honest with my current employer, I requested a six-day leave to fulfill the dream of going to Dubai for the chance to be part of Emirates. Lots of things

In the meantime, Avianca called and asked me if I would be

happened during that period. While I was enroute to Dubai,

interested in working with them as a safety officer. I did not

my dad passed away in Costa Rica. That was extremely

have anything to lose. I interviewed in both Colombia and

hard for me. I could not do anything but keep moving

Costa Rica and I accepted the position in Costa Rica.

forward. I was on my way to Dubai and fulfilling a lifelong

When Emirates called six months later, I was surprised.


They asked if I knew anything about the United Arab

The next day at seven o’clock in the morning, I walked into

Emirates and told me that they were still interviewing

a meeting room full of people. There were lots of applicants

people. They said that if they saw a fit for me, they would

from many different places for various positions. They

call back. A few weeks later, I got a call from Dubai.

asked who was there for the dispatch position. I stood up

I traveled to Dubai for six days to go through the whole interview process. If I passed their extensive screening, I would be given the opportunity to be part of Emirates.

along with 35 other people. There was just one position available. That was eye-opening. The competition was stiff. After an hour interview and two questions, I was the last candidate left. I was called into the next room, and then into another room. They gave us a problem to solve in a team of four people. My team included me, another lady


from Argentina, and two men. In the end, they gave us 30 seconds to say why we wanted to work with Emirates. They did not want to hear what was on our resumes. They were trying to find out who we really were.


AUR: You got the job, obviously. How did they make the offer? MLS: After all those tasks and tests, the real interview was supposed to be the next day. The woman from Argentina and I decided to go exploring and experience the beauty of Dubai, the people, and what the country could offer us as a home base. I wanted to be realistic and, if the interview did not go well, I was planning to fly back to Costa Rica. I needed to have that time to breathe a bit, process my dad’s passing, and focus. Emirates pays very well, but they are very selective about the people they hire. I was incredibly pleased with the interview and, of course, incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to meet a group of individuals that represented the airline so well. Now it was just a matter of time. Amazingly, of 600 applications, only 35 made it to Dubai, and I was one of only four finalists for one open position! 28 | MARÍA LIGA SÁNCHEZ

After the last round, I flew home, settled into my new job, and got a call from Emirates offering me the position. They were still awaiting approval for funding but, if all went as planned, they wanted me to start in June. I was also glad to hear that the last four finalists who got interviewed were ultimately hired as dispatchers, including my friend from Argentina. The next hard decision was whether or not to leave Costa Rica. Was it worth the risk? Of course, I decided to go for it. When aviation is in you, it’s difficult to let go of that passion. Flight safety was a good skill to learn, but my goal was to become a dispatcher. Just imagine--in Costa Rica I was doing weight, balance, and flight plans for five flights. In Dubai, I am responsible for coordinating 45 flights a day and everything that comes along with that. I coordinate flight plans with other regions--European flight controls, flights through India and Pakistan, or Iran. All those details need to be handled daily, depending on the routes—with ten-hour shifts, four days a week.

It has not been easy adapting to a new culture, different ways of doing things, extremely strict rules, lots of training, mid-year reviews, and changes in the flight path of certain routes.

AUR: How does the culture in Dubai differ from that of Costa Rica? MLS: Latinas are very warm. We like to celebrate when we see each other, usually with a kiss on each cheek. Here, you extend your hand out. No emotions are exchanged. It is a bit cold in comparison. But this country offered me a new opportunity. So, I learned the rules and follow them. I have to be crystal clear to make sure the airline respects who I am and that I respect them.

AUR: We´ve got a pandemic here… next steps? MLS: We are still flying but they have reduced the number of flights. We are not too busy, but for now we all have our jobs. Friends, family, and your inner circle are key. It’s always good to visit your roots. There’s nothing better than spending time in Costa Rica with my family and getting more energized for the future.


Sinópsis: María Liga Sánchez es originaria de Costa Rica, pero actualmente vive en Dubái. Trabajó como despachadora de vuelo en LACSA y luego en Avianca. Actualmente trabaja en Emirates coordinando más de 45 vuelos al día y planes de vuelo con regiones europeas, así como vuelos provenientes de India, Pakistán e Irán.


LPA NEWS By Claudia Zapata-Cardone


t is an honor to have the opportunity to write about the Latino Pilots Association ( in the new Latinas in Aviation magazine. My name is

Claudia Zapata-Cardone and I am the Executive Officer of Community Relations for the LPA, a committee member with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, as well as Captain of an Airbus 320 for United Airlines. In 2015, five friends pursuing their pilot certificates and ratings at Jacksonville University’s School of Aviation

A Passion Ignited

realized that there was a demographic that did not have their own organization for aviators--the Hispanic /Latinx

My love and passion for aviation started when I was eight

community. Our founding members were Current President

years old. My father began working for People’s Express

Jerry Dooyes, Vice-President Gabe Quintana, Executive

Airlines in the early 1980s out of Newark Airport. We were

Officer of Recruitment Michael Cerrato-Yeomans, and

a lower-middle-class family, and my father could not afford

permanent board members Nick Sorkki, who was the

the employee cafeteria every night, so we would bring

founding LPA President, and Merrill Sutton, who was the

him dinner while he worked his shift. I would watch the

previous Executive Officer of Community Relations. All

airplanes take off and land from the back seat of the car

founding members shared a Hispanic/Latinx ethnicity but

and think, what a magical thing, to be able to fly! I did not

came from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds. They

know that becoming a pilot was an option because I had

allied to form the LPA to serve our underrepresented

never seen a female pilot, much less a Latina one. I didn’t

demographic through education, mentorship, and civil

meet a female pilot until 1998, and I didn’t meet another


Latina pilot until 2012.

I joined the LPA in 2019. After being involved in aviation

Fast forward 38 years in my aviation career and we still

for 25 years, I needed to hear the perspectives of other

have a problem with young Latinas being discouraged from

Hispanic/Latinx pilots (especially Latina pilots) about their

pursuing a career in the aerospace industry by teachers,

triumphs and struggles in the aviation industry.

guidance counselors, parents, and other gatekeepers. These young Latinas are at a huge disadvantage because they are unaware of the many exciting career opportunities available to them in the industry.



he LPA has grown to approximately 500 members of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, with members in various careers within the aerospace

industry. Since its inception, the members of LPA have visited many elementary, middle, and high school students to introduce them to careers in aerospace. We have participated in numerous industry conferences with Women in Aviation, the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, and the National Gay Pilots Association. As our association grew, JetBlue First Officer Camila Turrieta, our New York regional director, organized a oneweek aviation camp for high school students during spring break called the Academy for Latinos in Aviation Science (ALAS). The main goal of the camp is to expose Hispanic/ Latinx students to different careers in the aviation industry. This past Spring, many LPA volunteers were ready to meet and mentor the students to ignite their passion for aviation. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the camp has been placed on hold until it is safe to meet in person. In accordance with the CDC guidelines, this will most likely begin in Spring 2022. The four-day intensive course will begin with a tour of an aviation-centered college, such as Vaughn College in Queens, New York. On the first day, we will introduce students to flight simulators, air traffic control simulators, and also participate in Aircraft and Powerplant workshops. The second day, we will visit the JetBlue maintenance facility to talk to pilots, maintenance technicians, flight attendants, and engineers. We will then take the students to JetBlue’s headquarters in Long Island City, where they will meet with other professionals and explore various other, lesser-known careers in aviation such as IT, app development, accounting, law, and marketing. All are needed and important to maintain a successful airline. On day three we will visit New York TRACON Center to see air traffic controllers in action in one of the most challenging and busiest airspaces in the world. The last day will be the pinnacle of the program. Students will have their first flying lesson at Global Aviation Center, followed by a graduation ceremony. 31 | CLAUDIA ZAPATA-CARDONE


he eventual goal is to expand the camp to other JetBlue cities and use the blueprint to encourage other airlines to sponsor their own version of ALAS

in predominantly Hispanic/Latinx communities We are also proud to offer various flight and aviationfocused scholarships when they become available. Our newest scholarship is through our partnership with Epic Flight Academy and will provide $20,000 towards the $30,000 cost of becoming certified as an aircraft maintenance technician. Applications for this Aircraft and Powerplant Mechanic Scholarship opened in January. The scholarship information /application can be found at

On a Mission The LPA aims to remove any disadvantage for Latinas to enter the field of aviation. Our first mission this year began by elevating more Latinas into positions of leadership. We already had excellent female representation within the LPA volunteer structure. Our Executive Director of Marketing and Social Media, Leigh Alvarez, is a JetBlue First Officer, along with three airline/cargo pilots serving in the role of Regional Director positions who are as follows: Camila Turrieta, JetBlue First Officer and Chair of the President’s Committee for Diversity and Inclusion for the Air Line Pilots Association ( for the New York area; Karina Plank, First Officer for United Airlines, Denver Area; Cristina Acosta, First Officer for ABX, Northern California. We created two Scholarship Co-Directors headed by general aviation pilots Manuela Cortes and Shakar Soltani. We are fortunate that retired Lt. Col. Olga E. Custodio, the first Latina military fighter qual pilot in the U.S. Air Force, recently joined the LPA Board of Directors as a Board Advisor and STEM advocate.



hile this is a good start, it is not enough. We recently began a collegiate chapter of the LPA at Embry Riddle University in Daytona

Beach, Florida. Chapter President Victoria E. Calderon and rising senior Raquel Villagomez reached out to the LPA regarding the lack of representation of Latinas in the aviation industry and were inspired to create a Latinafocused mentorship program. Several Latinas within the LPA have now been informally mentoring each other to provide support and encouragement in a white-centric, male-dominated industry. Ask most women in the aviation industry and they will tell

We are excited to share this journey with you. If you join the

you how they were discouraged and dismissed in their

LPA by April 30, 2021, we will waive the membership fee so

pursuit of reaching their aviation/aerospace goals. Ask any

you can experience the benefits of membership personally.

woman of color and they will tell you of added unseen, but

However, like most volunteer organizations, you will only

strongly felt barriers in the form of microaggressions that

get out of it as much as you put into it. We encourage

they had to additionally endure, along with the added insult

you to become active in the LPA community and connect

of being ethnically and racially stereotyped. We are in the

with those who share your aspirations. When in-person

process of meeting with our Latina LPA stakeholders to

opportunities arise after the pandemic, we encourage

create a mentorship program to address the specific needs

you to take part, especially if it is a school visit to inspire

of Latinas that pursue a career in the aerospace industries.

the next Hispanic/Latinx generation to pursue a career

Finally, the Latino Pilots Association is in the process of changing our name to the Latino Professionals in

in aviation. Please share your passion with the youngest Latinas in our community.

Aerospace. This change will allow us to support the

I often wonder what would have happened if I had met a

various careers that are available in the industry to include

Latina pilot when I was that eight-year-old little girl in awe

not only pilots but also engineers, mission specialists,

of the magic of flying. I think that the seed of possibility

mathematicians, scientists, air traffic controllers,

would have been planted and it would have whispered, “Si

technicians, doctors, lawyers, and many others not

se puede.”

typically associated with aerospace.

Sinópsis: Latino Pilot Association (Asociación de Pilotos Latinos) es una organización no gubernamental sin fines de lucro integrada por pilotos profesionales de diferentes sectores de la industria de la aviación que busca predicar, inspirar, motivar y asesorar a las futuras generaciones de aviadores profesionales. LPA es una red nacional de mentores pilotos que buscan retribuir a la comunidad latina. Cuenta con un programa de primavera (ALAS) y un campamento de una semana para estudiantes de la escuela secundaria.



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Custodio By Priscilla Alarcon


am honored to welcome Olga Custodio to our inaugural issue of Latinas in Aviation magazine. Olga

is a retired Lt. Colonel from the United States Air Force

(USAF) Reserves and is the first Latina to graduate USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) and earn a fighter pilot qualification. She was selected as an instructor pilot in the T-38 twinjet supersonic jet and went on to hold many “firsts” in the Air Force. She is also a retired captain from American Airlines with more than 11,000 hours of flight time. She has flown the Boeing 727, Fokker 100, Boeing 757, and Boeing 767 to multiple continents. Olga was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and now resides in San Antonio, Texas with her husband and best friend of 46 years, Edwin. They have two children, Marcia and Edwin II, and one grandson, Jedi.

tee. Daedalians Foundation Trus

In the book Latinas in Aviation by Jacqueline Camacho Ruiz, you mentioned you were inspired by your father. Tell us about him. My father was born and raised in Puerto Rico and was a U.S. Army Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO). He started his military career at a very young age serving during the end of WWII and the Korean War. He was a member of the 65th Infantry Regiment, and in 2014, the unit was recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor for their valor and dedication as the only Hispanic Regiment in U.S. military history. I grew up traveling between continents and saw the world before I was 15 years old. I saw how my father served as an “ambassador” within the military and as a U.S. citizen in another country. He was my role model of service to country, and I saw the opportunity for me to also serve and be part of something bigger.


You have persevered through rejections and challenges, beginning at the age of 16 when you were denied admission to the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). How did you stay so determined?

USAF T-38 Instructor Pilot at Laughlin AFB, TX.

I always stayed open to possibilities and continued to look for opportunities. Time has helped me realize that I never wanted to give up on my dream. I understand that “no” doesn’t mean “never.” It’s just a matter of knowing it may not be the right time or I need more preparation, education, or experience to reach my goal. My mantra (“Querer es

Poder” or “Where there is a will, there is power”) and my faith helps me persevere. I also believe that sheer determination, along with a tenacious attitude, drives me to fulfill my goals regardless of the situation. My success in the male-dominated pilot training program equipped me with a first-hand understanding of the challenges women face every day in balancing their professional and personal lives. I aim to educate everyone with my life example and motivate them to follow their dreams, no matter how great. I know passion will always lead to purpose. We all have potential; we just need to develop it.

What education and training did you pursue to get to your military goals?

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My degree was a bachelor of science in math, but since I was not able to enter ROTC, I decided to change my major to a bachelor of arts in business administration with a minor in math. I knew the business degree would offer me better professional career choices once I graduated.

You were awarded the Headquarters Air Training Command (HQ AETC) Aviation Safety Award for superior airmanship after overcoming an emergency and safely landing your plane. Tell us about your fear in the moment and how you handled it. In any emergency, there is no time for fear because your priorities are to take care of your aircraft and those onboard. I learned this during my first in-flight emergency on a student solo flight. After the initial moment of surprise 37 | OLGA ESTHER NEVAREZ CUSTODIO

when my windscreen went dark and was then blocked by blood and feathers, my piloting skills took over and I implemented the next steps to deal with an emergency

heavyweight approach to a safe and uneventful landing earned me the safety award.

In the book Latinas in Aviation you wrote, “Our defining moments in life are tests for us to see who we are and what we are able to do. Your experiences until that moment are what will help define you.” What were some of the defining moments of your career?

meri can

was challenging. In the end though, the single engine,

Captain at A

later, handling an engine failure with weather minimums

Air line s.

to aviate, navigate, and communicate. A few years

When I finally had the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming an USAF officer and military pilot, I knew I had to do everything I could to succeed. The challenges I faced were building blocks to becoming stronger and more determined. For me, failure was not an option. My first inflight emergency as a student pilot gave me confidence to know that I was going to be a good pilot. I was able to put into practice everything I learned up to that point in training, and it was that moment that pushed me forward. Eventually, I graduated in the top five percent of my pilot training class, earned my fighter qualification and was assigned to the fastest supersonic aircraft available for women to fly at that time.

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, TX AFB lph o nd Ra at



How do you think failure or apparent failure prepares you for success later in life? Learning from mistakes gives us perspective on how to approach the next challenge. This ensures you are always prepared. I know that I can’t be over confident and I need to keep learning and building on my skills. In aviation, there are a lot of challenges. The flight training alone is challenging itself even without barriers, but as a woman, you must be able to stay the course in spite of any downfalls. Every day is another day with opportunities to prove you can do it.


we were all trying to achieve the same goal. Although I was aware I was the only woman, I didn’t focus on it. I saw myself as an equal with all the other male student pilots.

What does it mean to you to be known as the first female Hispanic U.S. military pilot? In my journey, the title was never my motivation nor my purpose. However, having been blessed with such an


of tra ini se


UPT program. My classmates were supportive because


washed out within a month after we started the year-long


There was one other female in our FSPOT class, but she

Training student during the in te Pilot adua itial r g r e pha d n

Were you the only woman in the Flight Screening Pilot Officer Training School (FSPOT)? How did that make you feel?


extraordinary and successful career, I am compelled to share my insights and lessons learned with all those who are pursuing their own dream and passion. Young girls/students need to hear stories like mine to be encouraged and inspired. As they say, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”

Did you feel you had to work harder than your male counterparts to reach the same or equal standing or position? I felt I did have to work harder than my male counterparts

How did you become a respected leader in such a male-dominated field? Was it different for you than your male counterparts?

and also show more confidence, resilience, motivation, and

Since I had no female mentors, I sought out male mentors

determination while making sure I wasn’t given any special consideration as a female. I knew I was actually graded harder than my classmates and still managed to finish in the top of the class. I did think about the women who would come after me, and I wanted to do my best to set a high standard.

who I respected and admired and I learned from them. They advocated for me and recognized my worth and potential. I believe that you have to give respect in order to get respect. Leadership is about being open, flexible, and accepting accountability, which gains respect within your team. You must also listen and empower your team and do your best to understand their perspective and input. As long as everyone is working toward the goal of the mission and not just the leader’s agenda, the team will succeed. Leaders should always want their team to succeed and then share the credit. For women, the big difference is that we are not always given the same leadership opportunities as men, despite being equally or even more qualified. Often, giving a woman a leadership position is seen as something temporary, and perhaps a waste of an opportunity to give a position to a male. Women need to continually advocate for


themselves and look for those who can support them. 39 | OLGA ESTHER NEVAREZ CUSTODIO

What should women wanting to be Air Force Officers or military pilots expect regarding duties and responsibilities? Military pilots are Air Force Officers first and foremost. Before you attend military pilot training you first must become a commissioned Air Force officer requiring a four-year degree. There are three pathways to get a commission. Through the Air Force Academy, Officer Reserve Training Corps or Officer Training School. These teach leadership, military management, Air Force history and culture and basic combat skills. All are mentally and physically challenging. Your responsibilities are in the oath of office of service before self: to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, pledge allegiance to the same, and discharge the duties of the office assigned. Once an Air Force Officer, you train to become a military pilot getting assigned a weapons system “aircraft” in the Air Force inventory depending on your graduating class ranking and preferences. Each aircraft has a specific mission depending Meeting a T-38 pilot (son of a former student) at AirVenture Oshkosh 2019.

to the unit assigned. In 1993, Congress changed the law to allow women to be assigned fighters to fly in combat and have opened most aircraft to women. The Air Force is continuing to change the body-size standards in order to make pilot and aircrew jobs more accessible to the 0.2 percent of female pilots in the service, and more males with body parameters outside the 1967 standards.

What sacrifices have you made to be where you are? When I started my career, I was already married, with a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. At the beginning, my aviation journey took me away from my family for long stretches until I was eventually flying for American Airlines about 15 days a month. Today, staying in touch is much easier with the technology and apps available. Back then, I would buy calling cards with limited minutes to check in with the family when I was on trips. Sometimes when I was flying international, I couldn’t even call home. I would do my best to be scheduled so I wouldn’t miss important and special events with my family. We all have to sacrifice at times and understand that it is a temporary necessity to get to the next level/stage. I saw these sacrifices as essential for building a better life for all of us. Making those sacrifices made everyone involved stronger. 40 | OLGA ESTHER NEVAREZ CUSTODIO

Inspiring the Aviation Explorer Girls Scouts group, mentor since 2008.

What is the secret to your success? Everyone finds a way of coping with challenges and mine is my faith, as well as staying focused on the task at hand. As long as I stay focused and keep reminding myself that the opportunities given to me are rare, I know I have to give it all I have. On my journey, I always remembered why I was working toward my goal, which was for me and my family. I would take it one day at a time, working on the immediate challenge. If I looked at the entire journey, it would be too overwhelming. I also had a great support circle, including my husband, parents, and friends who would step in to help when I needed it. I knew I couldn’t do it all by myself and appreciated everyone in my life who offered their support.

San Antonio Aviation & Aerospace Hall of Fame Inductees 2017.

Looking back, what advice would you give your younger self?

What defines who you are today?

Stay confident and never give up on Plan A, even when you

Being blessed with my professional and personal success,

have a Plan B. You can always go back to Plan A!

I am now dedicated to help inspire others to achieve their

How do you keep up with trends in aviation, especially with technology changing and evolving so quickly?

advocate because young girls need to understand that it is

Technology evolves every second. I do love how we can connect in spite of our distance, especially for me as a STEM advocate, speaker, and community leader. As a pilot, I know I have the capacity to learn and adapt with new trends. I also know that when technology fails, we must all rely on our fundamental piloting skills. Transitioning from an analog to a digital flight deck wasn’t hard but understanding how the technology affects the aerodynamics and flight characteristics of an aircraft, and when it is necessary to turn it off and hand fly, is important. It’s like the utility of knowing how to program each command of a computer even though we have a friendly operating system. Then we can take that knowledge to make innovative designs for efficiency. Technology has advanced aviation, but it has also made some pilots lose their skills. I always recommend pilots hand fly and review the basics any time they have the opportunity. When technology fails, we need to be ready to take over.

dreams, especially young women/Latinas. I am a STEM okay to be smart.

How can young people pursue and learn about STEM? Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are pathways to incredible career opportunities and professions. Students can seek out experiences in these fields, but if they do not have a family member in a STEM career, it’s much harder for them. Many students from underserved communities experience this challenge, but there are many aviation organizations which offer great opportunities and experiences. Students should also tell anyone and everyone about the fields that interest them. Someone will surely step forward or know someone who can help. I tell young girls, “It’s better to stand out than fit in. Know you are smart and believe in yourself.” Girls should empower themselves with education, information, and experiences on the way to finding a STEM career that excites their passion enough to pursue it. I also recommend students try new things, even if they think they won’t like them. It just might be a doorway to something else. Stay curious, ask questions, and never stop learning.


Mentoring is one of the biggest factors in helping women persevere through challenges/barriers. Women and girls need to see more successful women in STEM fields. Not being able to have a seat at the “all-male STEM table” is very discouraging, but having a seat and not being heard is even more discouraging.

Elementary student meeting her role model during a school expo.

What would you change to open the path for more Latinas to enter the world of aviation? As Latinas in aviation we need to reach out and let other Latinas know we are available to mentor and share what

As the Board Advisor for the Latino Pilots Association (LPA) board of directors and Executive Director for Women in Aviation Alamo City, can you tell us how these organizations are reaching Latinos/Latinas and how they are making a difference in minority communities? These organizations offer important outreach programs and events. We partner with aviation/aerospace businesses, school district STEM directors, and other aviation nonprofit organizations to reach thousands of students and introduce them to activities, scholarships, and opportunities in STEM aviation careers. We have awarded several scholarships to deserving, underserved students to access higher education in STEM education. Through these and other organizations I work with, I was able to award scholarships to several Latino students

we know. We can’t give them success; it has to be earned. We can, however, give them some tools to support them in working towards their goals. Those we mentor need to understand the necessary hard work and perseverance necessary to get to the finish line.

What are some of your future hopes for Latinas in aviation? I hope more Latinas will consider careers in aviation and aerospace and know they have what it takes to succeed. There is still a small percentage of women in aviation and Latinas are a fraction of that number. We all need to reach out to other females in aviation to help them connect, network, and find mentors. As we do that, we can also make sure that our outreach includes more Latinas.

in 2020 alone. Still, there is a lot of work to do to have a bigger impact in underserved communities. It starts with convincing students of the need to stay in school if they want to have better opportunities.

Sinópsis: Olga Custodio es Teniente Coronel retirada de la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos (USAF) y es la primera latina graduada del entrenamiento de pilotos de pregrado de la USAF y la primera en obtener una calificación de piloto de combate. Estudió Administración de Empresas y Matemáticas tras ser rechazada por el ROTC hasta que finalmente se convirtió en oficial de la USAF. Fue galardonada con el premio a la Seguridad de la Aviación del Comando de Entrenamiento Aéreo.



Mujeres de HACE is a women’s leadership program geared to empower high-potential Latina professionals.

Women in Aviation International San Francisco-Bay Area Chapter

ABOUT US Women in Aviation International-San Francisco Bay Area Chapter are here to inspire,conduct education outreach to area youth, networking and mentoring a new generation into the aviation and aerospace industry. Our chapter provides assistance towards scholarships resources by our local members.



Of program participants report a promotion within six months of completing program.


Report a salary increase within six months of completing program.


Would recommend program to a colleague.

VISIT: TO LEARN MORE. HACE is a national non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of Latino professionals. Throught education, access, and professional development, we help Latinos succeed in every phase of their careers.


www.facebook. com/groups/sanfranciscobayareawai





pun with inspiration, priceless wisdom, and humor, the Today´s Inspired Leader Volume II book is a collection of stories that depicts men and women at their best-achieving success, learning from failures, and finding the path to a life of significance within their work, families, and communities. By sharing the rich tapestry of their experiences within their personal and professional worlds, each leader opens our minds to possibilities within our own lives, and where we can journey if we let vision, grit, and faith lead the way.



THE SKY IS NOT THE LIMIT How to Inspire Youth on a STREAM Journey By Ana Uribe-Ruiz


e often say, “the sky is the limit” to kids, but this new generation needs individualized inspiration and direction. STREAM is an acronym that

stands for science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts

and math. It has been on the forefront at millions of schools around the world, giving young minds a way to channel their curiosity and look for a different path in their education. At the high school level, we increase our efforts to give young people even more direction as they begin applying to college or investigating careers. I am a firm believer that mentorship is key to making a

STREAM in the High Schools

change. It is important to have the support of someone who was bold enough to do something nontraditional

At the high school level, STREAM programs make girls

after high school. Aviation is one of those industries that

aware of careers in technology and engineering that they

has lacked diversity for many years because so few of

may have considered too difficult, or “just not for me.” We

us choose to be part of something so unique. Therefore,

can change that.

we have to make our presence in the industry known and share stories of how we got where we are. Young people need mentors to inspire them, show them different possibilities for their future, and even how difficult paths are attainable with perseverance.

We all belong in that intersection. Just imagine walking into a General Electric plant, where a group of engineers are transforming a new airplane engine to become more energy efficient and environmentally friendly to transform the industry for all of us….and then walking into an airport and seeing a woman captain welcoming you onto the next flight. She is listening to the controller, with a soothing voice on the other side, telling her that she is clear for takeoff. It is those stories that we Latinx pilots can be a part of sharing with students. People tend to think that aviation is an exceedingly difficult career. They believe the same about being an aerospace engineer, but the best way to tackle the challenge is in chunks. If your dream is to be part of a new generation of aerospace, then there is a place for you. Why not? What is stopping you? If you have access to a student loan to study finance, you can also use that loan to become an engineer. 45 | ANA URIBE-RUIZ

Sadly, the root of the problem is historic. Women were not always included in the aviation industry. We used to be the ones that stayed home…that is not the case today. Things have changed. Women belong in any industry and on any career path. When you see a young, intuitive mind that has lots of questions, stop and listen and allow her to share her thoughts. Let us start that empowerment early and show her that we all belong in any industry.

My Journey to Aviation When I think back to my high school days, I remember a particular math teacher. He used to say to me, “You have the same math brain as your brother.” My brother was my hero, and still is in many ways. He is an industrial engineer who completed three years of school in one year. He was the youngest in his class, a 16-year-old in 12th grade. I love numbers but did not really consider myself the engineering type. I am a people person. I ask 2,000 questions, and that may be why I work with special needs kids. My own son is autistic. I also work in the insurance industry aside from my passion of empowering the next generation of female pilots. So how did I become a pilot? I grew up in the industry because my dad formed an airline in the late 50’s with a group of investors. Travel was the norm in my house. Aviation was always a part of our dinner conversations, but I wanted to be an economist. Life took me in another direction, and I ended up going to law school instead. When I met my husband, he was a private pilot. The idea of flying with him was exciting and some plans were put in place. Then my son was born and when he was two years old, we realized he was a bit different. He is autistic. I decided to put my energy into him and decided the flying would have to wait. After we moved to California, my dream of flying returned. My son settled into school and the weather on the west coast was perfect. I became a pilot, and my husband and I enjoy our dates flying from one place to another. It’s so exciting! 46 | ANA URIBE-RUIZ

IWOAW At the same time, I realized there were too few women in aviation. I became part of the Institute of Women of Aviation Worldwide Week (IWOAW), which provides free flights for girls, introduces them to amazing women in the field of aviation, and gives them a different perspective on the world. The idea behind it all is to open their eyes to a different industry. Flying takes time, effort, and focus. Without all three, you cannot fly, complete the right training, or find the right guidance. With all three, everything falls into place. The majority of teachers in this country are women. It is an admirable profession, and we must start with the educators if we are to introduce more girls to aviation. Teachers must see that women can succeed in different fields and present respective role models to their students. Then the girls in their classes can open their minds to a future career path. Further mentorship can take the form of showing youth how to fill out a college application, find scholarship funding, etc.


e can guide the next generation of women

We also want them to remember their roots, who they are,

to be independent, socially responsible, and

where they came from, and what they did to get where

inquisitive about science, technology, and

they are. Most of all, we want them to keep passing that

engineering paths. It’s crucial that children believe that

torch from one generation to another.

they can become whatever they want to be-- a doctor, scientist, teacher, environmental engineer or architect, etc. It is important to allow them to be scared, uncomfortable, and feel unsettled, but also to encourage them to come to you when they are ready. You can empower them with a “Yes you can,” and guide them to achieve their goals and challenges.


Sinópsis: Ana Uribe-Ruiz fomenta la capacitación STREAM (Ciencia, Tecnología, Robótica, Ingeniería, Artes y Matemáticas) que posibilita canalizar la curiosidad y buscar un camino diferente en la educación. A nivel de la escuela secundaria, proporciona una mejor orientación y promueve la investigación. Ana forma parte del Instituto de Mujeres de la Aviación en Todo el Mundo (IWOAW) que ofrece vuelos gratuitos a niñas y jovencitas para presentarles el ámbito de la aviación y mostrarles una perspectiva diferente sobre el mundo. 47 | ANA URIBE-RUIZ

TECHNOLOGY Rising Star By Priscilla Alarcon


artha Cervantes is originally from Michoacán, México and grew up in Los Angeles in a largely Hispanic, first-generation neighborhood. She is

proud of her heritage and being bilingual. Martha holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from John

Co ur

Hopkins University and is now pursuing a master´s degree there in the same field, with a concentration on robotics. She has been named the Technology Rising Star for her leadership of CIRCUIT (Cohort-based Integrated Research Community for Undergraduate Innovation and Trailblazing). CIRCUIT is an initiative led by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to establish a nationallyrecognized, cohort-based leadership, research, and mentoring program for high-achieving scholars who face barriers in achieving their dreams. We were honored to have a Q &A session with this Technology Rising Star!

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of J ohn H opkins APL

an im e ig W / Cra

Martha could you please tell us what motivated you to enter the STEM field you chose? I pursued an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering because it allowed me to investigate a variety of topics that I could explore later in my career. My older brother, two years my senior, had just started his own mechanical engineering degree, and I thought, if he can do

it, why can’t I? Our mother has always encouraged us to perform at a higher level so I pushed boundaries to achieve my dreams. The field of engineering had always appealed to me because of its seemingly straightforward and logical nature. It was not until I was further along in my studies that I learned about and truly appreciated the creative side of engineering. I was trained to use problem-solving skills in engineering courses that have been invaluable to me as I work on my graduate degree in robotics.


Did you always know you were going to be a mechanical engineer? Growing up, I did not have a lot of exposure to the engineering profession. But I had heard that it leveraged skills in math and science – two subjects I enjoyed. So, I figured it was the field for me. Additionally, I have always been curious about how everything works, from the lights in the house to the air pump for the soccer ball. The mechanisms that make clocks tick and the intricate process of designing such a piece fascinated me. Later, when I learned more about electronics and programming, I was equally enchanted. The prospect of designing a mechanism and making it move for a particular use has drawn me towards mechanical engineering and robotics in particular.

How did you navigate your field of study and internship opportunities? Learning to navigate and balance college life while adjusting to a new environment is daunting, but you never have to do it alone. From academic advisors who help you choose the right classes to complete your degree, to upperclassmen who warn you about certain professors, building a network to guide you through your own journey is key. I found that community through the campus chapters of professional organizations, including the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). By participating in these organizations, I discovered that not only was I not alone in feeling overwhelmed, but there were a lot of people willing to offer advice. My affiliation with

What advice do you have for young Latinas trying to find those internships/ job opportunities?

SHPE and NSBE also enabled me to attend professional

Younger Latinas looking for internships and job

conferences that exposed me to internship opportunities.

opportunities should take advantage of every opportunity

Fellow club members were eager to help me prepare for

to gain experience in their field of interest. As an

interviews and fine-tune my elevator pitches.

undergraduate, I struggled with imposter syndrome – doubting that I was qualified for any internship. If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell her to go for every opportunity and apply for every position because you


never know what could happen. If there is an opportunity to do research on campus or to attend a conference or career fair, take advantage of it. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation with the right person to make an impression and grant you an opportunity. 49 | MARTHA CERVANTES

You have been named a Technology Rising Star for your leadership in the Cohortbased Integrated Research Community for Undergraduate Innovation and Trailblazing (CIRCUIT) program, as well as your technical expertise. Can you please tell us about CIRCUIT and your involvement/experience with it? CIRCUIT is a year-long undergraduate research program for trailblazing students, which we define as any student who has faced barriers in achieving their goals. I have been part of the program’s leadership team for two years, and it has been a very rewarding experience. The year I joined APL, Will Gray Roncal, the director of the program, invited me to join CIRCUIT and help the team expand its scope, which included cutting-edge research topics, and recruiting a broader student population. Since then, we have developed a training curriculum for students to develop their skills and build confidence in their abilities. We have implemented a holistic hiring process that looks beyond traditional measures of success such as transcripts and grade point averages and instead looks at each student’s potential to make an impact on a research project. Most importantly, we have mentored more than 100 students, providing them with a forum to ask questions about careers in STEM and research, and a unique experience that jumpstarts them into a STEM career at John Hopkins APL, and other top companies and graduate programs. I am honored to be a part of this innovative way to introduce students to technical fields with the support and mentorship that trailblazing students often lack.

You were a part of the first CIRCUIT cohort and one of the first students to transition to a full-time position. Can you describe how you learned about the internship, the steps you took to get it, and how the internship transitioned to full-time employment? The CIRCUIT program coordinator at the time reached out to the SHPE chapter at John Hopkins University. As a part of that chapter’s executive board, I helped them set up an information session for SHPE student members and had the chance to learn more about the program and its mission. After that initial session, I expressed my interest and applied to the program. Back then, the program was only a summer experience. But a few of the rising seniors, including me, were chosen to continue as APL interns throughout the following school year. My assignment was to work on assembling a 3D-printed humanoid robot that would be used as a surrogate for more expensive humanoid arms in research about personal protective equipment for emergency medical responders. That spring, I was offered a full-time position at APL and have been grateful and excited to contribute to important research ever since.


What are some barriers you have encountered while working towards your dreams, and what steps have you taken to overcome them?

What advice would you give to other Latinas wanting to enter your field of study?

The biggest barrier in my career as an engineer has

more about it, go for it. Personally, I have found it to be a

definitely been a lack of access to mentors. As a first-

very fulfilling career choice, and I would love to see more

generation Latina from south Los Angeles, I did not have

representation in my field. Don’t let stereotypes dictate your

family members or close friends who were engineers. My

future, and don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd. It

mom was the first in her family to attend middle school, and

can be intimidating to be the only Latina in class, but wear

then proceeded to continue her education through college.

that identity with pride and honor and know that you are

My parents did what they could to get my brothers and me

paving the way for future Latinas.

the best education they could, and I am forever grateful for their sacrifices. Their perseverance and integrity inspire me to be better and to strive for more. Getting into college with a generous scholarship was the first step toward building the life that my parents made great sacrifices to create. Going to college 3,000 miles away from home held its own challenges, and I definitely stumbled along the way. Luckily, I found a support network through friends and connections. Even though I initially had no one to advise me about engineering and careers in STEM, I was able to build my network and was unafraid to reach out and learn from other people’s experiences.

If you are interested in engineering, or just want to learn

Finally, what advice can you offer about finding the right college, as well as finding grants, scholarships, and financial aid to finance an education? Do your research. With the world available at your fingertips through the internet, look into the things that matter most to you about college (city versus rural, large versus small, etc.). Read all you can about the schools that interest you. Find current or past students studying in your desired field and ask them about the school. And don’t be afraid to talk to whoever you can — teachers, neighbors, family friends — about your dreams, fears, and concerns. It doesn’t matter if they are in your field or not; they might still be able to give you a different perspective on college and careers as a whole. I was fortunate enough to earn a very generous scholarship through Johns Hopkins University with my acceptance, which was the key to funding my undergraduate experience. I would encourage you to use your network and spend time researching different types of scholarships, grants, and student

loans at universities and beyond to find the best option for you.

Sinópsis: Martha Cervantes nació en Michoacán, México, pero creció en Los Ángeles. Tiene una licenciatura en Ciencias de la Ingeniería Mecánica por la Universidad de John Hopkins. Actualmente cursa una maestría con especialización en Robótica. Martha fue nombrada “Technology Rising Star” por su liderazgo en CIRCUIT (Comunidad de Investigación para la Innovación Integrada de Pregrado y Pioneros) de la Universidad de John Hopkins y promueve la importancia de las carreras STEM entre las latinas, las posibilidades de financiamiento y la amplitud de oportunidades. 51 | MARTHA CERVANTES

ROOTS and Wings By Alejandra Uriarte Ibarra


was born in Madrid, Spain in 1996. My mother is Cuban, and my father is Spanish. They met during their studies in Germany. When I was three years old,

we moved from Madrid to Berlin and throughout my life, we’ve moved back and forth between the two places a total of three times.

Despite my intention to become an engineer, I never imagined mechanical engineering as an alternative for me.

“Maschinenbau” did not sound inviting. Also, friends and

I have always been fascinated by flying. As I grew up

family advised me against it because of how few women

between Madrid and Berlin and visited my family in Cuba

were in the field, and how I might have a hard time coping

every year, being on an airplane always felt like being

with the environment. Therefore, I was encouraged to

home. We flew so often that when people asked me where

study industrial engineering, but the program that I wanted

I lived and which airline we used to fly home with, 5-year-

was only offered in Berlin, Aachen, and Karlsruhe.

old me would answer, “We live in Iberia and the airline we always fly with is Berlin.”

Choosing Engineering During my last two high school years in Berlin, I wanted to study aeronautical engineering at a German university. However, none of the nine technical German universities offered a bachelor’s degree program in aeronautical engineering. I was therefore left with two alternatives to study that would prepare me for a master’s program in aeronautical engineering: either mechanical or industrial engineering. 52 | ALEJANDRA URIARTE IBARRA



t that time, I was open to moving to a new city,

a space transportation, satellites, and aircraft equipment

so I went to Aachen and Karlsruhe to attend

company. During these months in the workshop, I learned

the information events at the universities. In

how to weld and operate a milling machine and lathe. Most

Karlsruhe, I met a girl who had just finished her industrial

importantly, though, I realized that I really enjoy hands-on

engineering degree and wanted to enroll in a master’s

tasks and that I am actually good at them, even though

degree program in aeronautical engineering. However,

I was the only woman in the workshop. The upcoming

she had been rejected because she had not studied

months of studiumMINT sustained my decision to study

mechanical engineering as an undergrad. I realized I did

mechanical engineering, then go on to study aerospace

not want to ruin my chances of studying aeronautical


engineering, so I listened to the advice of my older brother, who wisely advised me to ignore what people had to say and do what I really wanted to do. That is the moment I realized two things. First, my bias against mechanical engineering was not my own, and second, I did not want to lose the opportunity to study aeronautical engineering for any reason. I therefore started looking into mechanical engineering programs around Germany, which led me to learn about studiumMINT, a semester-long orientation program to give student prospects insight into the different engineering branches offered at the Technical University of Munich (TUM). I expected that the program would reassure me about pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, since I was still a bit skeptical about it.

The first exam periods of my undergraduate program were particularly stressful, mainly because of my high academic expectations for myself. As the work became more difficult, going through it all with friends made everything more endurable. As time went by, I liked mechanical engineering more and more. My passion and eagerness to gain more practical experience led me to apply to part-time jobs in the aeronautical industry. After my first interview at Siemens

eAircraft, I was rejected for not having enough academic experience. However, the interviewer encouraged me to apply again later. Despite this disappointment, I grew passionate about the aeronautical industry. I became fascinated with future propulsion systems, especially electric propulsion. My second application was successful, and I started working part-time at MTU Aero Engines AG. I

While waiting for the start of the program, I decided

learned to balance studying full-time with working 16 hours

to complete the mandatory mechanical engineering

a week and visiting my family in Berlin.

internship required by all German universities. I did this for two months in Augsburg, Germany, at MT Aerospace AG,

Images © 2020 Rolls-Royce plc. All rights reserved.


Progress in a Pandemic


iving alone in Munich, I realized I had left my comfort zone back in Madrid and Berlin. Still, I was eager for another adventure. I applied for an exchange

semester abroad after a successful completion of my degree and thesis at TUM. And even though it was very competitive, I was accepted for an exchange semester at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. I had a three-month gap before starting my exchange, so I decided to take a chance and get in touch with Siemens

eAircraft once again for an internship. My ongoing interest was well received, and I started soon after. Interestingly though, I was placed at Rolls-Royce Electrical (RRE), since the first day of my internship was also the first day in which RRE took over the department. During those months, I learned about electric and hybrid-electric aircraft projects

Back in Germany, and as a consequence of the lockdown, I was not able to start at RRE as a working student. Then I thought of Balázs, a friend of mine, who I had met while writing my bachelor’s thesis on electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) at Bauhaus Luftfahrt e.V. He and ten other students had started a project at the TUM called HORYZN, with the goal of designing, building and testing an eVTOL. After getting in touch with him, I joined HORYZN right away and was fully motivated to play my part in an innovative and fast-moving project involving electric propulsion and unmanned aerial vehicles. Despite the pandemic, the team grew immensely during the first lockdown. Now, we are proud to have successfully finished our first project and are eager to keep innovating in future projects. We also competed in the October 2020 New Flying Competition and took second place. Moving forward, we want to keep growing as a team and participate in challenging competitions.

and strengthened my analytical problem-solving skills. In Singapore, I solidified my engineering background in an international environment. Unfortunately, my exchange semester was cut short by one month due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Images © 2020 Rolls-Royce plc. All rights reserved.


Lessons for Latinas All in all, there are three main lessons I have learned as a Latina in aviation and would like to share. First, embrace who you are and take advantage of your idiosyncrasies. Keep pursuing your dreams without letting

reminding myself of the above three lessons. In the meantime, I really look forward to meeting many Latinas like myself along the way. I am often reminded to approach life by this quote: “You

go of your roots.

will never experience personal growth if you fear taking

Second, do not let others condition your dreams. Just

“Quien no llora no mama.”

take the risk and apply for that college, scholarship, or job. Remember, the only certainty is that “100 percent of the shots you do not take, you miss.” You will never get

chances,” by T.A. Sorensen. Or, like my mother would say,

Alejandra Uriarte Ibarra is originally from Madrid and is studying at the Technical University of Munich, where

anything if you do not fight for it.

she is expected to graduate with a master’s degree in

Third, go out, be curious, establish a network full of

electric propulsion and electric vertical take-off and landing

passionate people, and keep in touch with them. I am but at the start of my journey in the field of aviation and there is still much I hope to learn beside constantly

aerospace in March 2022. Her studies concentrate on aircraft, which is her passion. She is part of the student organization, HORYZN, and works at Rolls-Royce Electrical. Connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin. com/in/alejandra-uriarte-ibarra/.

Sinópsis: Alejandra Uriarte Ibarra nació en Madrid, España, en 1996. De madre cubana y padre español, siempre sintió una especial fascinación por volar que la llevó a estudiar Ingeniería Aeronáutica en la Universidad Técnica de Múnich (TUM). También se capacitó en diversos países y cuenta con prácticas en diferentes compañías.


Poetry submission request for

BEYOND HAIKU: Women Pilots Write Poetry

Captain Linda Pauwels is calling on women pilots from the four corners of the world to submit poetry for her second book Beyond Haiku: Women Pilots Write Poetry.



The themes in this book will be 1) On Strength and Endurance, 2) On Radiance and Beauty, 3) On Love of Flying, and 4) On Finding Balance. Vignettes on Blood Ties will feature poetry from mothers, daughters, and sisters who fly. And of course, a good dose of wry pilot humor is always welcome! Like the first book, Beyond Haiku: Pilots Write Poetry, this will be a shared creative effort, with all illustrations by children of pilots. Proceeds from the book will go to fund scholarships for young women who dream of a professional career as a pilot.

Recipient of the



Please submit a maximum of three original, unpublished haiku or short poems before MARCH 30, 2021. Send them to PILOTS.HAIKU@GMAIL.COM in an attached Word document. Include your name, city and country, and current flying assignment.


B787 Check Airman, American Airlines




ven as a child, I knew at some point that I would become an engineer because I was always very curious about how things worked. I decided to

study aeronautical engineering because I liked airplanes. I also wanted to make my mother proud. Through effort and perseverance, I managed to enter the National Polytechnic Institute (Instituto Politécnico Nacional) in Mexico to pursue the career which was calling my name-aeronautical engineering. Parallel to our professional studies, a group of colleagues and I began to study to become licensed maintenance technicians. As part of the program, I had the opportunity to do an internship at TAESA, an airline based in Mexico City, which helped me begin to see what aviation was like in real life and reaffirm my commitment to it. Most of my training and experience was in maintenance. I liked being close to the aircraft and seeing everything behind the scenes that made it possible to fly, but finally life led me to dedicate myself to training flight personnel.

Training the Trainer

I HAVE EXPERIENCED MANY AREAS OF AVIATION AND HAVE ENJOYED EVERY ONE OF THEM.” I started by learning the smaller subjects the program offered. Slowly I learned more, gained the trust of my

I was looking at different career options when a friend told

bosses, and asked them for access to more subjects. In

me that one of his teachers was looking for an instructor

the mid-2000s there were very few job opportunities for

to support him at his training center. I called him and he

everyone and of course, pilots were no exception. So in

interviewed me. We agreed that in the beginning he would

order to increase their chances of joining an airline, pilots

give me an initial course on the B737-200 and in the process,

needed to be type-rated for the planes that most airlines

he would be evaluating me to decide whether or not to give

had, and at that time, the Boeing 737 was the most popular

me the position. At the end of the course, he hired me!

commercial jet. 57 | NAYHELLI SÁNCHEZ


fter a few years, some new airlines began to

Little by little, I gained the trust of the pilots, got to know

open and they needed training for their pilots. So

them, learned a lot from them, and even made great

we began to offer training to a variety of pilots,

friends with some of them. I met several of them early in

including some with years of experience and hundreds of

their aviation career, and now they are captains or even

hours of flight and in some cases, even those who already

flight instructors. I am very pleased and proud to have

knew the plane. It was challenging at first because I was

accompanied them from the beginning of their successful

not the instructor they were expecting. I could tell they


saw me and wondered, when will the engineer who is

giving the course arrive? They received me with suspicion. Sometimes they challenged me, sometimes they tested me, and sometimes they asked me trick questions to see what I would tell them. I would take a deep breath and answer what was in the manuals. I reviewed those manuals again and again before entering the classroom. I would also consult the pilot guides as an alternative source of information to anticipate their questions. I read the Boeing whitepapers and watched the support videos repeatedly to make sure I had the correct answers. It required lots of focus and effort, but it was also a time of lots of learning and growth.



At the same time that my ground school hours increased, I was becoming more involved in the administration and logistics part of the training, learning about procedures, regulations, theoretical training programs, practices, licenses, instructor permits, permits from a training center, etc. They started assigning me other types of responsibilities, like coordinating courses for the rest of the aeronautical technical staff, at the same time I was still giving my courses for pilots. I learned a lot in my ten years at Asteca, and I was promoted to Services Manager before I joined Viva Aerobus as a Training and Standardization Manager. I moved to Monterrey to begin my new opportunity.

Welcoming Women in Aviation I enjoyed the new challenge of carrying out the training for the aeronautical technical personnel to transition from a fleet of Boeing 737 Classics to Airbus A320s. The new Airbus 320s were very modern, with full glass cockpits and fly-by-wire technology. They operated completely differently and were made out of composite materials and very fuel efficient. By training directly with the manufacturer rather than the airline, it was necessary to adapt procedures, follow transcripts, and modify manuals to reflect the new training programs. It kept us attached to the regulatory framework, keeping in mind the safety of our aeronautical technical personnel (pilots, flight attendants, maintenance and operations officers) and our operations. I learned a lot from this experience. Afterwards, I was asked to support the technical publications area, which is dedicated to making information more readily available and easy to understand. We provide the tools needed to create more efficiency in the work of the crews, maintenance technicians, and dispatchers.

So far, I have experienced many areas of aviation and have enjoyed every one of them. I think I am in the right place! Also, during my journey I have met a few women in the different stages of their beautiful career, and I have not yet met a woman who is not completely dedicated and putting everything she has into succeeding in aviation and demonstrating her worth. All of these women have a story to tell and they all work to earn a place in a world still dominated by men. Every time I see more women engineers, maintenance technicians, dispatchers, or pilots, it gives me a great sense of pride and pleasure to know of them and their


achievements. With each step forward, they not only advance for themselves, but for all the others who have had to pave their own way. Every time we meet, let’s support each other, share our experiences, and push each other forward. In this way, we will help diversify the industry and welcome women into aviation.

Sinópsis: Nayhelli Sánchez estudió Ingeniería Aeronáutica en el Instituto Politécnico Nacional. Simultáneamente, estudió para ser técnico de mantenimiento con licencia, lo que le permitió ingresar en TAESA, una aerolínea de México. Finalmente decidió que quería capacitar al personal de vuelo. Luego de trabajar 10 años en Asteca, fue promovida a Gerente de Servicios antes de unirse a Viva Aerobus como Gerente de Formación y Estandarización.



to be a Pilot By Correspondent Ana Uribe-Ruiz


t was amazing to sit with one of my accomplished friends who has broken the glass ceiling in a country that is always in my heart: Costa Rica!

Gabriela Valderramos is a pioneer in more ways than one, so we discussed aviation, her new motherhood role, and how the industry has changed since its beginnings.

AUR: Fast-forward several years. How did you keep the dream alive?

AUR: Tell me…why aviation?

GV: At the end of high school, there was an orientation

GV: Well…. I don’t know, but I have always loved airports

“You are wasting your time with all these other options…I

and planes--people coming and going. The buzz was key for me and I spent as much time as possible visiting the airport. I usually went there with my mom and waited for my dad to come from Venezuela to visit us. Many times, I asked my mom where the women pilots were. Imagine, I was six years old and already noticing how few women were flying. My mom did not know the answer, so her explanation was that maybe it was not one of their flights. I was so inquisitive and determined that I said to my mom, “Well, if no women pilots come out, I am going to be the first women pilot!”

day. They asked us what we wanted to study. I told them, am going to become a pilot.” By the time I was a teenager, two of my friends and I had access to a magazine with some stories about the U.S. Air Force. Of course, in those days the address of the publisher and the recruiting office was in print. We sent some letters requesting to join the Air Force. But we did not know that we needed to be U.S. citizens to do so. We never got a response. At 15, in the dentist’s waiting room, I saw a magazine profile on the famous Elena De Andreis. There was a picture of her with the plane she used to fly with her ex-husband. De Andreis was one of a few captains for Airbus in LACSA Airlines- one of the first Costa Rican airlines. That day, I realized that I could go to the local airport in Pavas and learn how to fly.



graduated from high school in December 1994 and took the bus to the airport in January 1995, with all my Christmas money in my pocket. There were only men,

no women. I did not even know who to ask for information. Then I saw the advertisement on the roof of an aviation school called IACA. “I want to be a pilot,” I told the gentleman at the counter. “Do you have your high school diploma?” he asked. “Yes, I do.” I responded, proudly. “You have to attend ground school first, pass the test, and then start flying when you turn 18.” It was expensive-- 60,000 colones—which back then was roughly $100 dollars, which was a lot of money. I decided to put down the payment for my class that was supposed to start on March 5, 1995. When I got home, I told my mom that I wasn’t attending university because I was going to be a pilot. She was in shock.

“YOU NEED TO BE READY TO PERSEVERE.” It took three buses to get to class at night. At the end of the last route, there were no more buses, so one of my classmates used to drop me off at the closest bus stop so I could walk home. Twenty-five people started the class (three women and 22 men). Only six finished. One of the ladies became a private pilot and the four men and I ended up getting jobs at the airlines. When I turned 18 in June, I told my mom I did not want any gifts, just money for my first flight. That was June 4, 1995. I knew that no one would take that dream away, the feeling of being up in the air, the morning walk on the airport tarmac and the smell of fuel. It made my days much more exciting. All my free time was spent sitting and doing anything and everything needed around the airport. In September of that year, and after only 18 hours of flying time, I had my first solo flight! That was very unusual and amazing after such little flight training! I still remember my excitement to this day. There’s nothing better than being in the air by myself. 61 | GABRIELA VALDERRAMOS

AUR: You flew solo with only 18 hours? That is a huge accomplishment. What was next on your journey? GV: Well, money was tight. My mom and dad divorced. My mom was now a single mother with two kids, and we were living with my aunt and grandpa. All of them worked full-time to make sure we kids were taken care off. Mom used to help me with 1-2 hours of flying time per month. I worked in a small shop to earn enough for another two hours in the air every month. Thankfully, an instructor named Alejandro Nieto had a conversation with my mom about me. He realized I had what it took to go places. My mom decided it was time to help me out, so she took out some small, personal loans (back then, the banks would not give loans to study aviation). I got my private license and then after five years, I became a commercial pilot. Throughout those five years, I visited the airport every day. I went up flying with anyone who would let me and took theory classes over and over to make sure I had everything fresh in my mind.

I became part of ACPACR – Asociación Costarisense de

Pilotos Aviadores de Costa Rica. (Association of Costa Rican Pilots and Aviators). Mr. Fernando Serrano, president of the association at that time, asked me to work in the office. There I met Jorge Caballero. When one of them did not have a co-pilot, they called upon me. It was a way to get in more hours of flight time. In my English classes, I met the chief pilot of a nearby, small regional airline, Aero Costa Sol. They used to be a hub for DHL and FedEx between Panama, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. I got an interview and was hired to fly with them as a co-pilot whenever they needed one, like a stand-by pilot for their twin-plane engine aircraft. Sadly, after nine months, the company closed their doors. I then applied and began training as a police cadet in the Civil Aviation (Servicio de

Vigilancia Aerea), which was part of the Security Ministry. Since Costa Rica does not have an army or navy, those


divisions are the eyes in the sky for the government and part of the police force. I was then allowed to be a co-pilot, depending on the flights. It was a difficult time but also something that I remember fondly these days.


AUR: What made you stand out? GZ: Aside from my determination and grit, I am very tall--five feet, ten inches. The average height for a young woman in Central America is around five feet, four or five inches. When I was sent to get my uniform (the jumpsuit), I ended up with a man’s uniform and man’s boots. For the gala uniform, I purchased material to have it custom made for me. At the same time, they gave me access to the pilot’s

After three years, I had only flown 100 hours. Being a

lounge…something that took time and effort for the men

woman in a man’s world was very tough. Imagine, I was

to accept. They really were not ready to have a woman in

supposed to go to the U.S. base in San Antonio, Texas

there. I spent three years with them. There is nothing better

with a special scholarship to get trained in instruments. I

than flying low, around 300 ft., 50 nautical miles looking

completed my physical, had passport in hand, and was

for drugs on the coast and searching for places growing

ready to go. One week before I was to leave, I got a no go…

marijuana in the mountains. Also, sometimes we would be

just because I was a woman.

responsible for transporting the Ministry of Security and being part of the security flight for the president.

AUR: Did you decide to continue fighting for what was right or did you decide to make a change? GV: I was ready for a change, so I applied to an air taxi (as it is called in Costa Rica) company. I got hired by two of them--Nature Air and West Caribbean--but the latter was a new company. I did not know if it would pan out or not. I stuck with Nature Air. After nine months, I got a call from SANSA (Servicios Areos

Nacionales S.A.). I interviewed and started my training class. There were pilots with 8,000 hours, and I had only around 1,200. There were pilots with FAA licenses and local pilots, and every detail added up to a certain number of points. I ended up ranking third because I had the highest score on the technical part of the test. The next day a pilot friend told me they had moved some people around and I was now number six on the list. I got a call, and the chief pilot explained that the position 1,2,3 got in but needed a Captain, so they moved me to number six. It was his excuse not to give me the position. He said that I might be in the next batch of pilots. 63 | GABRIELA VALDERRAMOS


told him, “Thank you for the opportunity, and you can put me at the end of the line if that’s what you want to do because at this junction in my career, I will become

a captain with Nature Air.”

AUR: What did you do next? LACSA was sold to TACA, and then TACA became Avianca. In the end, I was supposed to become a captain for

The next day, the chief pilot called me again and offered

Avianca. After all the tests, interviews, and checkups were

me the position of FO (First Officer) with SANSA flying a

done, on November 3, 2018 I was told that everything was

Caravan. After everything checked out, they offered me

cancelled. I was looking into moving to Qatar Airways in

the captain’s position. The training took place in Memphis,

December, but life gave me a new purpose. I fell in love and

Tennessee. Finally, it was time to be a part of the jet fleet.

became a mom!

But ironically, ten of my male co-pilots were hired before

Things happened as they were supposed to happen. After

I was, even though I was the captain. Complete double

having my son, Avianca started closing its doors in Costa

standard. After a while, they offered me a position based

Rica and I was let go. The pandemic started and I was a

in El Salvador, but I needed to renew my license there.

full-time mom, still studying to get my ATP updated in the

I passed the test, and all went well until my medical

U.S. to return to teaching.

checkup. The doctor made an unwanted advance. I refused, and my medical clearance was put on hold. It makes you think…how is that even possible? Why must

AUR: What is your biggest obstacle?

women go through all this nonsense just to fly? So, I went to a pediatrician--yes, they actually sent me to her-- and got my medical clearance. After 30 days and an extremely hard process, I was cleared to fly an Airbus. I went from operations to systems and then spent four months waiting for a turn on the simulator. The only spots available were in Holland and the Philippines. So, on a cold Monday morning, I flew to Holland to train on the Airbus simulator, but I was not used to the European winter. I had brought all the wrong clothes. Of course, I was the only woman, and they tried to make it more difficult for me so my time in the simulator was scheduled between two o’clock and four o’clock in the morning. And this was in

GV: Being one of the women in the system. They pass me over for new trainings, new upgrades, and becoming a captain, but all in all, it is the system. You need to be ready to persevere in those circumstances to become one of the best pilots. That will always be the key. As for your work ethic, stay updated on new technology and changes in the aircraft. Show your competence and your identity by how you fly and the high standards you have.

AUR: plans for the future? GV: Being a mom for a while. Teaching will come next. We’ll see!


Sinópsis: Gabriela Valderramos es de Costa Rica. Realizó su entrenamiento en la escuela de aviación IACA en 1995. Obtuvo su licencia de piloto privado y llegó a ser piloto comercial. Fue capitán en SANSA. Actualmente estudia para mantener sus credenciales de Piloto de Transporte Aéreo (ATP) actualizadas.




o shed some light on this topic,we wanted to share with you this

beautiful memoir The Fig Factor by Jacqueline Camacho Ruiz. Inside, you will find eight hidden secrets “the fig factors” as she calls them, for discovering true awareness and embracing possibility, even amidst our greatest struggles. In this beautiful book, Jackie reveals how to get the most out of every moment through love, awareness, forgiveness, gratitude, and more. Each chapter wraps up with thought provoking questions emphasizing the real message: the answers to life’s greatest questions lie within each and everyone of us.



NOT EASY, but Not Impossible By Capt. Miriam Hernández


y history in aviation begins when I was six years

After several years, he moved to a position working as a

old, flying in a DC-10 for the first time with my

cargo agent in the same company. He worked there for

parents and brothers, and imagining myself

many years until the cargo business rebranded under

flying the airplane. I was so happy and excited to see the

the name Aeromexpress. A few years later, cargo was

aircraft, its large capacity for passengers, double aisles,

definitively closed and my father lost his job. He managed

huge wings, and the crew having such a sense of pride in

to support us all, but we could not afford flight school for

their work. It was indescribable--the sensation when we

me to become a pilot.

took off, listening to the sound of the engines, observing the earth from the sky, feeling the rapid ascent, and zooming through the clouds. I was instantly overwhelmed with emotion. There was no better feeling, and from that moment on, I decided that one day I would become a pilot.

After graduating from high school at the age of 17, I decided to enter the Mexican Air Force to become a pilot, but they did not admit women. I could only study nursing. So instead, in 1992, I entered the National Polytechnic Institute (Instituto Politécnico Nacional) to become a traffic agent at Mexicana de Aviación. That way, I could still work

The Journey Begins I was raised by wonderful parents and grew up with an older sister, an older brother and a younger brother. My mother was a housewife and extremely dedicated to her family. I have always considered her an excellent mother

within the aviation industry. It was a challenge since I didn’t have any experience, but fortunately I was studying information engineering and quickly learned the system. I gained my supervisor’s confidence right away. After a year in that position, I was hired as a public relations agent at Mexicana de Aviación and worked in PR for three

and friend.

years. I enjoyed my job, but I still wanted to become a pilot.

My father was a noble man and a very hard worker. He

training, so I applied for a flight attendant position. I passed

arrived in Mexico City when he was very young, looking for opportunity. His first job was as a simulator watchman at Mexicana de Aviación in the crew training center. He would watch the pilots arrive for their simulator training and he observed them with great respect and admiration.


I kept saving for my career but didn’t have enough to start all the exams and was hired by the Aeroméxico airlines. I saved everything I could for my flight school training, and finally, in 1997, I enrolled in a school in Tijuana. Each month I had five days off, which gave me the necessary time to get my flight hours in.


he moment I registered for classes, I had a wonderful feeling, knowing I was beginning to study what I had always wanted. I also had many

mixed emotions, questions, and doubts, but the thought of flying a plane by myself kept me going. My first hour of flight was one of the best moments of my life. It was a combination of simultaneous nerves and joy. Starting the Cessna for the first time, hearing the sound of the engine, feeling how the instructor rotated the plane, the turns, communicating with the tower, and flying visual all went perfectly. It was my dream come true. Little by little, I gained experience and achieved my first “solo flight.” It was an extremely emotional moment and a victory for me. After all my years of dreaming, I was finally flying and taking command of an aircraft! I started my instrument flight training while I was still working full time. Sometimes it was very tiring but I did it with great joy, as I kept envisioning myself as a pilot. My family was also happy and proud of me. Months later, to lessen my commute, I transferred to a flight school closer

A Pilot’s Life

to Mexico City, in Atizapán. With time saved, I could finish my degree faster.

After I obtained my private pilot license, I was extremely proud to transport my first two passengers, my wonderful mother and my younger brother. But this was just the


beginning of a long journey. I continued with my flight hours, my classes in the classroom, and two more years as a flight attendant until I received my commercial pilot license. At that moment, my desire to fly for a commercial airline became a real possibility. I needed to register in the union to participate in an airline bid, but at the time, children or relatives of pilots had hiring priority. Nevertheless, I was able to obtain everything I needed to apply for a position at Mexicana de Aviación. It was a very stressful process which included exams on general aviation knowledge, simulator tests, an English proficiency exam, and interviews, but I managed to finish as one of the top-ranked pilots and was given the opportunity to fly the Fokker 100.



signed a contract and they sent me to Miami for my first training. It was challenging. I got by with very little sleep, lots of studying and practice, and support from

my advisors and my new partner. Fortunately, I successfully passed my simulator exam. Hence my first day at the airline arrived—November 28, 2000. I had a plane full of passengers and I was filled with a mixture of emotions, nerves, happiness, joy, and the awareness that I was achieving my goal, my big dream, my first take off in a commercial airline. Now, every day I go to work, do what I like, and enjoy it with the same excitement I felt that very first day. Everything was perfect until 9/11, when aviation took a downturn. The airline laid off 135 pilots and unfortunately, I was one of the chosen ones. With very few pilot positions in commercial and corporate aviation available, I still wanted to work in the industry, so I took a job as a flight attendant for Mexicana de Aviación. I worked there for six months until a pilot position opened up and I took the opportunity to compete for it. Mexicana de Aviación sent all its Fokker 100 aircraft to an airline called Aerocaribe, which would later become a subsidiary called Click Mexicana. I was hired as First Officer there, but due to the experience I had, I was quickly promoted to Captain, which was another challenge and another step to climb. Once more I had to take exams, go through simulator training, etc. but nonetheless I achieved my goal and felt extremely satisfied to fly again as a captain, which is the dream and goal of every pilot.

Life Changes Soon after, I was offered the position of Flight Instructor, which I performed with great pride and professionalism. By 2006, I was “flying for two,” and I flew pregnant for four months. While I awaited the birth of my beautiful daughter, Mitzel, with great joy, I worked in the pilots management department. Although it wasn’t flying, I was glad to be working in aviation. Months later, I became a mother, the most beautiful role in my life. I returned to work after my daughter’s birth and tried to juggle being a mother, homemaker, wife, and pilot. It wasn’t always easy. In 2009, I decided to stop flying for a while, as I got sick and wanted to spend more time with my daughter. I enjoyed her full time for four years, but I missed


flying and decided to put my wings on again in 2013. Once I started flying again, it was hard to leave my daughter, but fortunately I had the support of my parents, who still help me take care of my daughter to this day. I was then flying for Interjet airline, where I flew the Sukhoi RRJ95B plane. My initial training was in Venice for 35 days. I missed my daughter so much, but I was also happy to be returning to the cockpit.



was with Interjet for four years, performing the positions of Captain and Flight Instructor. For Interjet, all flights left from Mexico City and I had been living in

Monterrey since my daughter was born, so I transferred to Volaris airlines, which was based in my hometown. I was happy there for two years, but I was away from home too long, staying overnight five or six days at a time and seeing very little of my family.

Working in a male-dominated environment like the airlines, you do still find people who do not accept women as pilots and even less as a captain. Some believe we do not have the capacity to fly, but we women have demonstrated that we can achieve all our goals--being moms, housewives, wives, and excellent professionals too. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. We have shown that YES we can do it, despite the tears, sleepless nights, worries, and days

Seeking more balance in my life, I found a position flying for Viva Aerobus. Their schedules offer me more time at home

without sleep it may bring us. In the end, we will always have the satisfaction of achieving all our goals.

and with family, which I value tremendously. Life is good.


Sinópsis: La Capitana Miriam Hernández estudió en el Instituto Politécnico Nacional para convertirse en Agente de Tráfico Aéreo de Mexicana de Aviación tras ser rechazada por la Fuerza Aérea Mexicana por ser mujer. Trabajó en relaciones públicas en Mexicana de Aviación. Obtuvo su licencia de piloto privado y tuvo la oportunidad de volar un Fokker 100. Actualmente es capitán de Viva Aerobus.


Attention Aspiring Pilotinas! Applications for the


ONE $2500 AWARD WILL BE GIVEN TO A DESERVING YOUNG LATINA (AGE 18-25) FROM MEXICO, CENTRAL AMERICA OR SOUTH AMERICA. Stay connected for the upcoming details and the application when it becomes available.

Follow us: http://




n November 2019, a group of students from the

The next two aircraft, Alpha and Beta, served to provide

Technical University of Munich (TUM) founded

further data. They were also modified, off-the-shelf,

HORYZN, a non-profit organization with the goal of

remotely-controlled aircraft. Alpha was the first aircraft

applying acquired knowledge to real-world challenges in

that had the capability of hovering, taking off, and landing

an ongoing effort to prototype the aerospace of tomorrow.

vertically. Beta additionally featured two wing-tip propellers

Currently, the team consists of 30 interdisciplinary students

for cruise, becoming a scaled-down configuration of our

in bachelor degree, master degree and PhD programs from

third prototype, Gamma. Gamma was designed from

nine different countries.

scratch using state-of-the-art software and integrates the

Based on the premise build fast, fail early, the team started testing on a modified, off-the-shelf, remotely-controlled aircraft called Frankenstein. This aircraft helped to identify upcoming technical issues prior to the design phase and professionalize the flight-testing procedures early on. In between two pandemic lockdowns, the team managed to set up a thoughtful, modular design process with stateof-the-art software, and build and test a fixed-wing, 100 percent electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) series called SILENCIO, for

learned outcomes of the previous prototypes. Gamma featured two independent powertrains for hover and cruise. It also combined the simplicity and the high-hover efficiency of a quadcopter configuration, which supplies four rotors and the high cruise efficiency of a fixed-wing aircraft. The independency between hover and cruise powertrain allows a targeted implementation of propulsion components. Furthermore, it is built with lightweight, highstrength materials with state-of-the art manufacturing techniques.

logistic purposes. 71 | HORYZON


ith this project, the team has bridged the gap between industry and research and started carving the path for other student initiatives.

Now, HORYZN will continue to grow internationally in order to live up to their vision - to play a decisive role in shaping the aviation of tomorrow.


The team started one and a half years ago and already has gained such renowned academic supporters as the Unternehmer TUM faculty of Aeronautics, the Department of Astronautics and Geodesy, the Institutes of Aircraft Design, Flight System Dynamics and Carbon Composites of TUM and Bauhaus Luftahrt. Industry supporters include Camilo Dornier, MTU Aero Engines and Quantum Systems. The students of HORZYN believe that their journey has only just begun. To get in touch and support their efforts, visit them on Linkedin or their website


CEIG-ASPA: The Strongest Pilot Union in Mexico is Fighting for Female Pilots Equity and Gender Equality

By Capt. Martha Vera Araujo


he Aviation Pilots of Mexico (ASPA), or Asociación

Sindical de Pilotos Aviadores, is a pioneer trade

union in the aviation profession formed to defend

labor rights and to uphold aviation security through a democratic and transparent union model. Today, they have more than 2,500 active pilots and maintain collective contracting with companies like Aeromexico, Aeromexico Connect, Aeromar, Mexicana de Aviación, and Aerocaribe. They represent more than half of the active pilots currently working in Mexican commercial aviation. To assist ASPA’s commitment to uphold labor rights and values, the Non-permanent Commission of Equity and Gender Equality of ASPA of México -CEIG (La Comision

Accidental de Equidad e Igualdad de Género) was formally established on November 29, 2016. CEIG´s main mission is to achieve gender parity and equality in the union, as well as develop proposals and actions that guarantee the transversality of gender policy in all areas: union, socio-labor, and socio-political. Because of the hard work, patience, and unity of the CEIG women associates throughout the years, they have made important advances to benefit female pilots in Mexican aviation and have created a more inclusive and equitable working environment. There is still a long way to go, but the creation of this commission laid the groundwork for improving several important issues, including: 73 | CEIG-ASPA

Increasing the visibility of the specific needs of female

pilots •

Enhancing the gravidity agreement for pilots

Improving motherhood and parenthood agreements

Creating a lactation agreement and ensuring the

pilots and recognizing them for their achievements and successes •

Installing ladies’ dressing rooms inside the on-site fitness gym

and tie, and instead have new uniforms and blouses manufactured with a more feminine fit and style.

forums, and other multimedia appearances. •

Supporting charity projects

Promoting and establishing protocols in case of harassment in the workplace

Increasing the prominence of females in the profession through photos, videos, interviews, participation in

Advocating for women pilots to forgo the use of male accessories for their uniforms, such as kepi

availability of a lactation room in the pilot reserve room •

Encouraging a sense of sisterhood among the female

Launching the “Secretariat for Gender and Substantive Equality” activities in 2021

Creating synergies and collaboration with other pilots from Mexico and around the globe

Collaborating with FPWG (Female Pilots Working

There is still a long way to go, but by staying

Group) of IFALPA, the International Federation of Airline

united as women, CEIG will continue to

Pilots´ Association

advance. We are grateful for the support from

Facilitating courses and talks to help raise awareness

various colleagues, union representatives and

of equity, equality, and gender violence issues

executives, because without their help, these achievements would not have been possible. All women pilots are encouraged to join the organization and work for continued equality in the profession. To learn more and join our efforts, contact us at ASPA.


WISDOM from The Sky


aptain Linda Pauwels is a check airman on the B787 at American Airlines. She has qualifications on the A300, A320, B707, B727, B757/767, B777,

B787, L100, and MD80 aircraft. Linda was born in San Pedro, a town in Buenos Aires province, Argentina. With a career spanning more than 35 years, Linda shares her advice with our future pilots.

What advice do you have for women in aviation to help them find resilience, courage and self- confidence when people don’t believe in or actively discourage their dream? In its purest sense, resilience is the ability of a strained body to recover its original size and shape after being subjected to the stress of compression. Seeing that humans are more than the sum of our physical parts, developing resilience requires that we tap into elements that cannot be easily quantified. Some elements, such as values and beliefs, are internal, and therefore use an inner compass as a guide to navigation. Other elements are external. The importance of sharing stories and seeing ourselves in others keeps hope alive when things are tough. And as much as we dislike it, failure is an excellent teacher on the path to building greater courage and strength. “Hope” is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul And sings the tune without the words And never stops - at all -

-Emily Dickinson

How have you found financing options to complete your pilot training, and what advice do you want to give women today about financing their training? When I went through initial flight training in the early ‘80s, there were no financing options. I worked three jobs and found creative ways to pay for flight training. This was not uncommon for my contemporaries at the time. Flight training is expensive, and today many more organizations offer scholarships and assistance for those who would like to embark on a career as a professional pilot. In my own way, I would like to give back too. Proceeds from my next book, Beyond Haiku: Women Pilots Write Poetry, will go to fund scholarships for young women who want to become pilots. 75 | CAPTAIN LINDA PAUWELS


Which of your “firsts in aviation” have defined you and shaped you into the pilot you are today? In 1984, I was the first woman hired as a pilot at Southern Air Transport, as a first officer on an L-100, the civilian version of the C-130. In 1988, I became their first woman captain, on a


B-707. I was 25, and at the time I was the youngest woman jet captain in the world. I was American Airline’s first Latina captain. I am also American’s first Latina check airman, and have instructed and evaluated flight engineers on the B-727, and pilots on the A-320 and the B-787.

How have these firsts shaped who you are now?

What were some of the most challenging or fiercest moments you have experienced in your career and why? In my 35+ years in aviation, there have been many challenging moments: serious mechanical failures, adverse

Firsts are cool, but in an aviation career there is always a

weather, illness, and loss of pilot medical certification, and

big element of luck. Or, if you will, providence. Being at the

leaving my children to go fly when they were little. Perhaps

right place at the right time often determines the course

the fiercest and most challenging point was upgrading

one’s career will take. So, I don’t know that these firsts

to captain on the B-707 when I was so young. It was a

have shaped me. What I do know is that I feel a sense of

big deal at the time and required a lot of grit for a young

responsibility to the profession, and will do my best to add

woman. I am thankful to the pilots at Southern Air who

a grain of uniqueness to the collective narrative, like water

took me under their wing and mentored me, like fathers

for chocolate.

and brothers. Times were different then, and they could be harsh, but they taught me well. After that, I knew I had what it took to handle anything in aviation.


Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self in your field and why? Aviation is a small world, and reputation is everything. Strive for excellence. Guard against complacency. Find the artful in the technical. Cultivate the fullness of your femininity. Be like the bamboo that comprised the bones of early aircraft: strong and beautiful while bending with the wind.

Could you tell us who or what inspires you now? Today, I am inspired by nature and simplicity, and the interconnectedness I feel with the machine and the environment when I am flying.

Finally, could you give us some wisdom about COVID-19 and your perspective on its impact in the aviation industry. The industry has taken a big hit because of COVID-19. I am not certain what the recovery will look like, or whether people will have changed their travel habits for business or pleasure in any lasting manner. We have had pandemics before, and another will likely occur in the future. What have we learned from this go around?

Trends you see in your field and why they are important? The increased use of automation and the fast pace of technological development. How will that affect the need for humans to be at the controls of an airliner or a cargo aircraft?

The 6 Pack- Its importance and why the younger generation should know how to use it if there were an accident and the new technological devices would stop working. We need to adapt to the times. When I first started flying at Southern Air, we did our flight training in the aircraft, not simulators. There were many fatal accidents during flight training. Proficiency and stick and rudder skills are important, and we are getting less and less of these in normal operations due to automation. Equally important, however, is the ability to recognize and understand the nature of a malfunction, and to use appropriate procedures and skills to manage the circumstances.


STUDENT TOOL KIT, RESOURCES AND MORE By Ana Uribe-Ruiz and Priscilla Alarcon


hen you choose to attend a college or university for your aviation degree (BS or AS),


you typically have the choice to pursue a

private pilot license as well. If you want to fly for an airline in the U.S., it is highly recommended that you earn a degree. You also have choices on how to balance and achieve your next steps (instrument, commercial, multi-engine and CFICertified Flight Instructor ratings). Some universities will include the commercial and CFI ratings; others will require you to look elsewhere for them. You also have the option to transfer to a university after getting your AS and continue your education.

Federal Financial Aid Finances are a big deal when applying to colleges or universities, so if you have a school in mind, follow the instructions on how to apply for a federal student loan. Federal financial aid is available for any college but begins with filing a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Make sure the form and all other information required by your school is completed and submitted on time. Use the link below to begin:

SELECTING A COLLEGE Here is a list of some U.S. colleges and universities with aviation departments that offer a bachelor of science (BS) or associate of science (AS) degree:

Personal Loans Besides seeking federal financial aid, there are other financial options available for pilots wishing to finance their training. They are personal loans which are only given for a certain term. To determine the amount of loan you need, always consider the amount of flying you are going to do, carefully calculate the tuition at your chosen flight school, and understand how much time the loan gives you to pay everything back. When you have your PPL, your loan can also be used to add hours and other ratings. The links below are excellent resources for pilot loans:


Hispanic Scholarship Fund:

Pilot Finance, Inc.:

Personal Loans If you are a new pilot looking to continue your ratings, it’s important to do your research and consider all the options available. Look at your available dollars and your financial plan. By seeking help and guidance from those like you who have succeeded, you will be able to reach your goal. Be independent in your choices and remember to remain financially stable while doing so. Always look at what needs


to be done and what resources you have available to you. Sacrifices may need to be made in your spending, but aren’t your wings worth it? Reach out for financial advice at

Scholarships Scholarships are available in most schools, and they are free money, no repayment necessary. Often, they

Women in Aviation International:

The 99’s:

Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA):

Latinas in Aviation: #Pilotina Scholarship

Latino Pilot Association:

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Scholarship

are easy to obtain and just require a simple application. •

Flight Scholarship Board Info: http://www.

Women in Corporate Aviation (WCA) Scholarship

organizations like Women in Aviation International, 99´s, AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association), and Latinas

in Aviation among others. One thing to remember with scholarships is that you are not the only one applying for them! So don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it the



However, research the requirements needed to earn them. Scholarships are available from many different aviation


scholarship-opportunities/ -

first time; keep applying and remember, the key to this is planning, not giving up on your dreams!

FINDING A MENTOR You are entering an industry where women, and Latinas in general, are very underrepresented. Mentorship is key to success! A mentor will guide you in your steps. They will tell you from experience what worked for them and what didn’t. They might have connections and introduce you to those who can help you. Make sure you take notes; it is worth listening to those who have traveled the route before you. If you’d like to connect with a mentor, reach out to me, Ana Uribe-Ruiz, at 81 | STUDENT TOOL KIT, RESOURCES AND MORE

FINDING A JOB OR INTERNSHIP Finding experience is important. Here are some places to keep an eye out for opportunities. •

WCA International: careers/ - Job Board

AOPA Job Board: aviation-job-postings


Page-turners for Aspiring Aviators Latinas in Aviation - by Jacqueline S. Ruiz The Women with Silver Wings - by Katherine Sharp Skyward - by Sally Deng Before Amelia - by Eileen F. Lebow Fly Girls - by Keith O’Brien Yankee Doodle Gals - by Amy Nathan In Their Own Words - by Fred Erisman


NEWS & TRENDS Dear readers, in this section we offer you a sample of resources to stay on top of the latest news and trends in aviation, space, and STEM. Enjoy!

NEWS → PERSEVERANCE GET US TO MARS! NASA´s 2020 $2.7 billion mission of the Perseverance, which launched in July, touched down on the surface of Mars on Feb. 18, 2021. The car-sized rover will kick off a new era of Red Planet exploration. Perseverance’s mission is to find astrobiological evidence of life on the planet and/or environments that would support the growth of life forms. On its return to earth, Perseverance will cache samples that will help NASA catalog Mars history and support future missions. READ MORE

→ SAY ALOHA…TO THE MARS ANALOG CREW! Six women scientists have “returned to earth,” completing a two-week mission in a mock Mars habitat on the big island of Hawaii. The Sensoria I mission is the first all-female cohort at the HI-SEAS habitat (the acronym for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation). It’s the first mission to take place as part of the Sensoria project, a larger initiative that will include a series of missions by a female majority with female leadership. READ MORE

→ FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT…FOR A SMOOTHER FLIGHT! Researchers have developed a new model to help build aircrafts that can better handle violent turbulence. It’s called the Turbulence Model and allows engineers to incorporate the physics of an entire vortex collision into their design codes. READ MORE

→ JOBY AVIATION AND UBER TEAM UP Santa Cruz, California-based Joby Aviation has received a $75 million investment from ride-sharing giant Uber Technologies and has acquired Uber Elevate, Uber´s eVTOL-based intraurban transportation business venture. According to a Joby press release, there will be an “expanded partnership between the two parent companies.” They intend to start operating as early as 2023. READ MORE 83 | NEWS AND TRENDS

→ START THE COUNTDOWN…AT THE AIRPORT Dawn Aerospace in New Zealand has been approved to fly a suborbital space plane from a conventional airport whose name is undisclosed. Their MK-II Aurora space plane will be able to send satellites into space during multiple flights per day from the airport, instead of having to launch at isolated facilities. READ MORE

→ WOMEN REPRESENT IN NASA ARTEMIS TEAM A team formed of 18 astronauts, half of them women, from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise and experience, are to embark on the next human space exploration mission to the moon. As part of the Artemis team, they will pave the way for the next missions on and around the moon. SEE MORE

→ FOR A SALAD THAT’S OUT OF THIS WORLD… A female astronaut, Kate Rubins, has harvested fresh radishes grown in space. The innovation opens new doors for producing food in microgravity and can contribute to helping sustain longer-term manned missions to the moon and Mars. READ MORE

TRENDS → TIK TOK…THE FINAL FRONTIER Looking for inspiration from like-minded trendsetters? Here are some awesome Tik Tokers (many of them female) to follow that are either working in or have previously worked for NASA, the space exploration or STEM field. •




And of course, don’t forget…


→ WE’RE ALL GETTING HOTTER! Research is telling us that the cosmos today is ten times hotter than it used to be. Tracking temps helps astronomers understand how the universe builds huge structures, including gatherings of star-rich galaxies, known as clusters. As clusters assemble, they release energy. By measuring how the temperature of this gas has changed over time, astronomers can “probe the progress” as clusters come together. READ MORE 84 | NEWS AND TRENDS

→ INTERNET INFLUENCERS BEGINNING TO SOAR The aviation and aerospace industry is redefining the term “influencer” thanks to professionals who are sharing their work and industry insights on their social media platforms. For example, Maria Fagerström has a social media following of more than 519,000 people. She’s a commercial airline pilot and First Officer on Boeing 737´s who shares her life in an attempt to encourage women to consider careers in aviation. And there’s Alyssa Carson, a NASA astronaut trainee with 348,000 followers. These are just some of the platforms that helps bring awareness to women in the industry. SEE MORE

→ WHO WANTS TO FLY? The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and United Airlines are teaming up to welcome and encourage young people to pursue aviation on all levels, with a variety of programs and activities that build on the strengths of each organization. United’s Aviate is a program that offers aspiring and established pilots the most direct and best path to United Airlines. The website offers navigation to several paths to United, depending on where someone is in their journey. READ MORE

→ GRANT AWARDED TO LATINAS STEM MAJOR FOR RESEARCH Latinas in STEM are gaining recognition. A $1.3 million federal grant was given to the University of Houston from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to encourage the education of Latinas in STEM majors involving research. Elsa Gonzalez, the researcher who received the grant, said it clearly demonstrated the country’s willingness to support the inclusion of underrepresented students in STEM fields. READ MORE

FOR YOUR CALENDAR → WAI GOES VIRTUAL After considering the current state of the pandemic, WAI has decided to deliver their outstanding conference activities virtually this year. The 32nd Annual International Women in Aviation Conference will be held March 11-12, 2021 and registration is now open. LEARN MORE

→ COVID GROUNDS AIR RACE CLASSIC Due to the pandemic, the Air Race Classic, the only annual airwoman race in the country, has once again been cancelled. The 2020 race also did not take place. This historic race dates back to 1929 and covers a cross-country route of more than 2,400 statute miles. The 2021 race was to takeoff in Lakeland, Florida and end in Terre Haute, Indiana. READ MORE


→ OSHKOSH OR BUST! Plans are in motion for AirVenture 2021, currently scheduled for July 26-Aug. 1 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. Among the featured programs will be the aircraft and personnel of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), a unit comprised of highly trained, rapid deployable airmen, who conduct special operations missions which involve special skills like parachuting, scuba, diving, rappelling, motorcycling, survival skills, and more. Advance tickets are on sale. READ MORE

→ TIME TO CELEBRATE LATINA ENGINEERS! One of our very own Fig Factor Foundation graduates, Diana Iracheta, has created a platform called @latina_engineer, and is launching a full week of celebrating and showcasing Latinas in engineering, and even has a scholarship program. She is a mechanical engineer, but many aerospace engineers have benefitted from the event/community as well. Join the next event taking place October 11-15, 2021. LEARN MORE


PILOTINA FORUM By Priscilla Alarcon with Maria Elena Alvarez Camps


ilotinas, I hope that every story that you have read has inspired you and helped you believe more in yourself and your chosen career path. Whether you

choose aviation, space, aerospace or another STEM field, know that anything can happen if you work hard and believe it is possible. In my commitment to helping you reach your dreams, I have asked our correspondent, Maria Elena Alvarez Camps, to give you some advice on what would have been helpful for her to know as she launched her career. Elena is the perfect lady to ask because as a young girl, she wanted to pursue aeronautical engineering at a time when people were advising her not to enter the field. They told her it was no place for women and that finding a job would be hard. Instead of becoming discouraged, Elena stuck to her dream and proved all her critics wrong. She became a Transformational Manager at Airbus Defense and Space and now has more than 30 years of experience in the field. Here’s Elena’s advice to our readers. When Priscilla asked me to give career advice to the readers of this magazine, focusing on what I know now and what I didn’t know starting out, the first thing that came to mind was how to prepare for an interview. I remember my first interviews and how scared, humbled, and unprepared I was for the interview dynamic. With time, experience, and failure, I became better at being less scared and humbled, but I still was not making a real impact in my interviews. Why? Because I was only worried about what I was going to say. I knew I was technically prepared, and I knew what I wanted and needed and I was determined to tell them without carefully listening for what they really wanted and needed. I was missing what I call today the “Three V’s” technique.


The First V: Victories. They need to get to know you, what you can do, and where you can make a difference. The best way to show them is by telling them about your victories! Organize all your professional victories in your head, meaning your successes and failures. Keep them in the back of your mind, like a library, so when they ask you a question about how you will react to a particular situation, you are capable of searching and finding your best story to illustrate the point. And do not forget that even a “failure” story can portray you as a hero! Let’s say the position you are interviewing for is related to supply chain and dealing with suppliers. When they ask you about your process for

The Third “V”: Vibe. The energy you exude when you

selecting a supplier, you could tell them the story of how

enter the room, the way in which you express yourself,

you selected the wrong supplier the first time because you

and your use of your body language during the interview

had not done a, b, and c beforehand. Then tell them how

is as important as your knowledge. Show them how your

you learned your lesson and developed a solid method of

“authentic you” will make a difference in the team. Use the

selecting suppliers to make sure a, b, and c are covered,

time you are given to show them your capabilities in such

every time. When you answer the interviewer´s questions

a way that they feel confident hiring someone who knows

through storytelling instead of with only facts and figures,

what she can do, is confident, and has positive energy.

the impact is multiplied. As Maja Angelou said, “People will

Communication skills are a differentiating factor that should

not remember what you did and they will not remember

never be neglected! As my communication coach Tulia

what you said, but they will remember how you made them

Lopes tells me, “It is not what you say; it’s how you say it!”

feel.” The brain only remembers figures and facts when they are associated with an emotion.

Last but not least, if you have a family, the manager may ask you the famous question, “This is a job with

The Second “V”: Vision. You should be able to articulate

responsibility and travel, so how are you planning to

your vision based on the vision and values of the company

manage it all, having a family?” If you get this question, sit

and in particular, the vision and values of the manager who

up straight, lean forward to get closer to them, look them in

is interviewing you. Today, with social media, it is relatively

the eyes and with a smile, simply reply, “If I have applied to

easy to research the vision and values of a company

this position, it is because I have my family matters under

or individual. The more you know, the better. Prepare

control. Do you have any other relevant question for me?”

your “victory” experiences in line with their philosophies

And then just keep smiling, lean back, and keep quiet!

and keep them in the back of your mind. Based on the questions they give you, use your vision to show the company how you can help them achieve theirs. The interviewers are only interested in your vision if it can help them make theirs a reality.

PILOTINAS, IT’S YOUR TURN! We want to hear what questions you would like answered, or what kinds of advice, or tips you need, fill the form out PilotinaForum or Email us at We will try to address it in an upcoming issue of this magazine. Thank you! PLEASE FOLLOW US ON THESE PLATFORMS:




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Latinas in Aviation Magazine is a semi-annual, internationally distributed publication that is committed to promoting diversity, inclusion and equality for this and future generations of Latina women working within and aspiring to careers in STREAM, and the aviation, aerospace, and space industries. The magazine creates access to mentorship, educational resources, internships, and other opportunities by sharing success stories from Latinas who have overcome challenges, stereotypes, sexism, and financial hardships to find a place in the industry of their dreams.


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