STUART, Fla. — The Stuart Air Show is back for another year, filling the skies over Witham Field with all kinds of planes and performances.
For decades, the vast majority of pilots in the industry have been men.
But, the one female pilot in this year’s show hopes to spark interest for more women.
For so long, women were not as involved in aviation because they were not always allowed to be.
For example, women couldn’t fly fighter jets in combat until the 1990s.
Now, the sky is truly the limit for women in every aspect of the industry.
Captain Aimee “Rebel” Fielder is an F-16 Backup Viper Demo Team Jet Pilot.
“Probably at around 10-years-old I had my sights set on being an Air Force pilot,” Fielder said. “The first time I got in a plane was when I was 16.”
At 30-years-old, she’s been flying almost 15 years, now flying fighter jets.
In those years, she’s long been outnumbered as a woman.
“Fighter pilots are the ones where we don’t have a lot of women,” Fielder said.
The FAA reported in 2020, women made up just 8.5% of pilots. But, that was up nearly 2% from a decade ago.
“Huge improvement actually,” Fielder said.
Fielder, based in South Carolina, notices the change.
“In South Carolina, we actually have 5 women…I work with more women than I ever have.”
She thinks more women see aviation careers as a conflict with their personal family planning goals. Most aviation jobs require travel.
“I think the other thing is it’s a male-dominated environment and that’s not conducive to some personalities,” Fielder said.
But, she said women are valuable skills and perspectives to the cockpit, and the industry is embracing women.
“No one in your squadron or like your peers look at you as a woman first, they see you as a pilot first which is super awesome,” Fielder said.
She encourages women to consider learning to fly, whether it’s for fun, for a career, or even serving the country.
“Go be around the pilots and figure out if this is something you want to do, and I guarantee you the brotherhood I found, the family I found makes it so worth it,” Fielder said.
The Air Boss for the Stuart Air Show this year is also a woman, and according to organizers, she is the only female Air Boss in the country.