Delta’s WING Flight introduces young women to careers in Aviation

Eight years ago, then 17-year-old private pilot Gatlyn Ligon attended Delta’s inaugural WING Flight – “Women Inspiring our Next Generation” – an experience she says left an indelible mark on her aviation journey. Ligon’s mother, a dedicated Delta flight attendant, believed it would be valuable for her daughter to be exposed to those who were already living out her dream. 

Mom was right (as moms so often are). 

“On the day of the flight, I remember arriving at the airport and being warmly welcomed by Capt. Joy Walker, a trailblazer as Delta’s first female pilot. As I stepped onto the plane, I was greeted by a group of accomplished women, all donning the very uniform I aspired to wear,” said Ligon, now a Delta A320 first officer. “My most enduring memories revolve around my interactions with the pilots. Their smiles and encouragement ignited a fire within me. That day, I was profoundly inspired to strive toward the day when I could step into their shoes.” 

On Sept. 22, Ligon joined this year’s annual WING Flight in honor of International Girls in Aviation Day, bringing over 130 girls from Atlanta to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center located on Florida’s Space Coast – similar to what she had done eight years ago from MSP to SEA. The eager students spent the day engaging with NASA leaders through a “Women in STEM” panel discussion and tours of Space Shuttle Atlantis® and Apollo/Saturn V Center, which featured interactive space exhibits, at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The WING Flight is operated exclusively by women from the pilots to the flight attendant crew to the dispatcher, TSA, gate and ramp agents – allowing girls ages 11-18 to learn about careers in aviation and aerospace.  

“For me, the WING Flight was more than just a glimpse into the aviation world; it was a firsthand day-in-the-life experience that solidified my aspiration,” Ligon shared. “The experience not only confirmed my passion for aviation, but also crystallized my desire to work for Delta specifically.” 

Currently, 42% of Delta’s total workforce is made up of women, but still only 5% of pilots, 19% of ramp agents and 11% of Technical Operations employees are women – numbers Delta is actively working to increase. This program is part of Delta’s broader efforts to close opportunity gaps for women in aviation and to generate a more diverse talent pipeline.  

“I believe the industry needs more people who are passionate about aviation and who are willing to foster the future generation of aviators. When these people are women, it serves as an incredibly important aspect of inspiring the next generation, which is visibility,” Ligon said. “There is rarely a trip where I am not approached and told that ‘I must be very inspiring to young girls’ or that a mother is glad their daughter saw me when they walked on the airplane. The more visibility we have, perhaps the more people we can inspire, and I believe it is incumbent upon us to do so for the future of our industry as a whole.” 

The WING Flight is spearheaded by Delta’s Flight Operations, drawing inspiration from a longstanding partnership with Women in Aviation International. Since the Flight’s inception in 2015, Delta has cultivated partnerships with schools and community organizations across the country that facilitate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and aviation education programs. 

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