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The Sky Is No Limit!
by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Cynthia Oldham
November 15, 2021

Lt. Carolyn Mahoney, one of four female pilots serving at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles in Washington, recently flew an aircrew to Abbotsford International Airport in British Columbia, Canada, to participate in the world’s largest diversity outreach event of its kind to inspire future leaders in aviation.

Lt. Carolyn Mahoney, a pilot serving at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, in Washington, talks with a girl during The Sky’s No Limit – Girls Fly Too! event that took place at Abbotsford International Airport in British Columbia, Canada in October 2021. The Canadian signature annual event showcases an unprecedented international partnership between Canada and the United States toward the improvement of gender and cultural diversity in high-tech STEM fields. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Lt. Carolyn Mahoney, a pilot serving at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles, in Washington, talks with a girl during The Sky’s No Limit – Girls Fly Too! event that took place at Abbotsford International Airport in British Columbia, Canada in October 2021. The Canadian signature annual event showcases an unprecedented international partnership between Canada and the United States toward the improvement of gender and cultural diversity in high-tech STEM fields. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

The Coast Guard joined the event, that allows girls and boys an opportunity to engage with pilots and explore various civilian and military aircraft, because Mahoney and her unit recognize the value of support and representation for women in aviation and STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics.).

Women account for a small fraction of professional pilots and aircraft engineers, and it’s not because they are uninterested or unwelcome in the field.

Studies have shown that a common perception persists that aviation and aerospace are industries reserved for men. From an early age, males and females alike are affected by this perception, which is continually reinforced by observation, media, social media and advertising.

According to Women in Aviation International, women pilots represent only six percent of the total pilot population.

The Girls Fly Too initiative, which began in 2015, aims to change the perception that aviation is for one gender, and awaken new interests by providing fun, interactive, and hands-on introductions.

Mahoney said she was excited for the opportunity to fly a Coast Guard helicopter to the event because she knows that for a lot of girls, if they see it, they believe they can be it. She added that exposure to career opportunities is an integral element to bridging the gender gap in STEM-related fields.

“I was fortunate growing up because my mother and father were both jet mechanics in the Navy, and both civil engineers following their service,” said Mahoney. “I was never told, or inadvertently shown, I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. This event plants the seed that girls and boys alike can pursue STEM and aviation careers.”

Despite her parents both holding careers in aviation, Mahoney said she didn’t grow up wanting to fly, but was inspired to become a pilot while playing lacrosse in college.

“I was on the field and saw an EMS helicopter overhead. In that moment, I knew I wanted to fly. I chose to serve in the Coast Guard because of their humanitarian–based missions. For me, flying with the Coast Guard is a means to helping others,” said Mahoney.

Mahoney said her career wouldn’t be what it is without the support of others, so she was more than happy to pay it forward and provide an opportunity for young women to ask her questions, try on gear, and explore the Coast Guard rescue helicopter.

The Sky’s No Limit – Girls Fly Too! annual events are part of an outreach initiative founded by Canadian pilot Kirsten Brazier in 2012, who is on a mission to share her passion for aviation and energize more females to discover the amazing opportunities available to them in aviation and other STEM-based fields.

The events are open to everyone regardless of age, gender or citizenship, and no registration is required to participate to ensure there are no barriers to participation.

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