WAI—Still Growing &Thriving



“… airports might do well to take a good, hard look at the members of WAI. They tend to be real go-getters.”

The 24th Annual International Women In Aviation (WAI) Conference took place recently in Nashville and left me just as impressed as preceding conferences. 

WAI is a large aviation group that appeared after I came on the scene, and watching it grow has been a bit awesome. A visit to the exhibit hall says a lot about the group. Exhibitors are a veritable Who’s Who of Aviation, and many of them come to recruit employees.

Boeing was there as were Pratt & Whitney, American, Delta, JetBlue, and most other airlines, including freight giants, Atlas Air and FedEx. I have no stats on this, but I wonder if airports were under-represented among those recruiting? If I were a young person starting out in aviation, I’d want to give serious consideration to a career in airport management. The flip side of that is that airports might do well to take a good, hard look at the members of WAI. They tend to be real go-getters. 

I know at least one attendee who was there primarily to interview those seeking employees. Surely there were many more. WAI’s conference has become a great gathering place for career seekers and employee seekers. 

The success of WAI is in large part attributable to Dr. Peggy Chabrian. She saw a niche, she filled it, and she led it all the way. The first conference had approximately 155 participants, this year there were some 3,000 or more. 

Congrats to Dr. Peggy and WAI. You’ve come a long way, baby!

Now, for a total change of subject… 

I grew up in Brunswick, Ga. My first memory of aviation in any form was going as a family to McKinnon Airport on St. Simons Island to watch my father board an airliner. (I also remember him telling us that he rode in an airplane that went “300 miles per hour.” That was the Lockheed Constellation and we were awestricken at such an idea.)

Though the airlines now operate in/out of a bigger airport, McKinnon is still a vibrant and busy general aviation airport. Gulfstream finishes its famed business jets there, and another company, Stambaugh Aviation, performs maintenance on heavy jets. 

But all is not well at McKinnon. Just recently, Stambaugh and others strongly criticized the airport director. On the other hand, Gulfstream and the Georgia DOT strongly praised the director—and the airport—in writing and voice. 

The harassed director finally resigned, as did the chairperson of the airport commission. The situation is in a state of flux and it seems safe to say that anger exists on both sides. I, on the other hand, am totally confused.

More on this later. Watch my future Airport Business blogs at:


BIO: Ralph Hood is a certified speaking professional and a member of the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame.