Women’s History Month: Erickson Reflects on the Past, Present, and Future Roles of Women in Aviation

Pioneering Female Helicopter Pilots 

Since the advent of the helicopter, women have had a presence in the cockpit, on the flightline, and in numerous additional critical aviation roles. In honor of Woman’s History Month, Erickson celebrates some groundbreaking moments for female helicopter pilots: 

  • 1938: The early 1900s saw the incremental advancement of vertical flight technology, paving the way for the first female helicopter pilot to take flight. 
  • 1947: Anne Carter received her helicopter license, becoming the first American woman to earn a commercial helicopter license.  
  • 1974: Colonel Sally Murphy became the first female helicopter pilot to graduate from the Army Aviation school at Fort Rucker, Alabama.  
  • 1990: Major Marie T. Rossi was the first woman to fly a helicopter in combat, flying fuel and ammunition to soldiers in enemy territory during Desert Storm. 
  • 1997: Jennifer Murray became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in a helicopter.  

Women’s Diverse Contributions 

Undoubtedly, critical aviation careers are not limited to the pilot’s seat. Women have been making substantial contributions to the industry for decades as maintenance personnel, engineers, quality and safety professionals, and countless other specializations requiring extensive technical expertise.

Read the article from AirMed&Rescue, featuring an interview with Kristi Gonzalez

“Erickson is dedicated to the advancement of women in the workforce, especially in areas where they are underrepresented. It is so important for us to build an inclusive culture where women feel supported and encouraged to take their place at the table. We want to be a company where women can see other women succeed and little girls can see anything is possible.”

Kristi Gonzalez
Senior vice president of Administration (Erickson)

Erickson proudly employs a multi-dimensional team comprised of women across all functional groups, from operations to executive leadership. Erickson recognizes and values the significant impact made by the contributions of the talented women within their organization and looks forward to a growing female presence across the industry.  

Erickson’s Director of Planning and Logistics, Amanda Hammerschmith, shared a message about the unique and essential perspective women can bring to an organization. Amanda had this advice to give to other women in the aviation industry, “Women should not be afraid of anything. We all have strengths; you have a strength that’s going to offer something beneficial to others. That’s just the diversity of the world. Sometimes I think people are too timid, and they just need to walk in and be confident and know what they have to offer.”  

Hammerschmith went on to offer the following advice regarding the challenge that many women face balancing demanding careers with equally demanding home lives, “when you’re 22 and you have a 2-year-old son at home and you have a career, that’s amazing, but you need to find a work/home balance. It doesn’t mean you have to work any less, it means giving everything you have to give when you can, and sometimes that means taking what you need to take to find that balance.” 

The Future Landscape of Helicopter Pilots 

Presently, women are underrepresented in aviation and even more so in helicopter aviation. According to recent statistics, women account for approximately 10% of army helicopter pilots with an even smaller representation in the civilian population. Female maintenance personnel make up less than 5% of the profession, and this statistical trend continues throughout many roles within the industry.  

However, an acceleration of female participation in the industry may be on the horizon. A number of organizations are considering the expansion of women in aviation to be a potential solution to the global fixed and rotary wing pilot and mechanic shortage.  

Erickson associates pose with the recipient of this year’s Whirly-Girl scholarship winner, Jessica Meiris,
at the 2023 HAI Heli-Expo in Atlanta, GA on International Women’s Day.

Erickson’s Commitment to Inclusion 

Erickson has long understood that cultivating a team comprised of the best pilots in the world means seeking talent from all demographics. Over the last decade, Erickson has partnered with Volo Missions to provide scholarships to female helicopter pilots through Whirly-Girls, an educational organization focused on the advancement of female helicopter pilots.  

Erickson’s current female helicopter pilot percentage is commensurate with the national percentage, and it is hoped that changing perceptions and enhanced opportunities will increase the pool of female helicopter pilot candidates across all industries.   

Erickson is invested in creating a diverse and inclusive work environment by providing training to employees on topics like unconscious bias and gender equity. Through a commitment to diversity and inclusion, Erickson is dedicated to building a best-in-class team and providing them with the necessary tools and resources to succeed.