Women in Naval Aviation Talk Experience, Tech

By Richard Conn, CREO Staff Writer

Innovation Coast held the second event in its Women in Technology series on July 20, which featured a panel discussion with three women who spent their careers in the field of aviation. 

The speakers were: Lee Hansen, who was the first naval flight officer to command Training Squadron Four and was the first woman to command an Air Wing in the Navy – Training Air Wing Six; Stephanie Oram, who served 24 years in the Navy as a naval aviator, and Christine Scott, who served 21 years active duty as a Navy air-traffic controller.

The discussion was held in the community room of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition and was moderated by Michelle Horton, director of the Pensacola State College South Santa Rosa Center and chair of the Innovation Coast Women in Technology Committee.

Hansen said the advancements in technology from when she started her career to her retirement were “amazing,” most notably the advent of simulators for virtually every emergency situation an airplane could encounter. However, she said the use of simulators, while positive, does have one drawback – the loss of actual flying time while training. 

“If we can take all of those things you learned during the 20 (flying) hours and put them in a simulator, super, we can save a lot of money,” Hansen said. “But, you don’t have those 20 hours of flying. So, when you’re a baby, flying, you need those hours to understand how it feels when something goes wrong, or what does it feel like when you maneuver this way.”

Oram, who served a three-year assignment on the Chief of Naval Operations staff at the Pentagon, managing the Navy’s land and water survival programs, and who was the U.S. Naval attaché at the American embassy in Ukraine, said that women have a great opportunity now to thrive in the military.  

“As everybody knows, there’s still a couple of areas where women cannot participate in because of mostly physical characteristics, Navy SEALs, etc., but everything else has opened up,” Oram said. “My premise is always, if you can meet the qualifications for a job, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female.”

Scott, who finished her career as the tower chief at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, said the military is one of the “most equal-opportunity employers out there.”

“The military is as close as anybody can come to equal work for equal pay,” Scott said. “Everybody has the same opportunity for advancement.”

Oram said her most rewarding flying experience was during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, where she was assistant officer in charge of a detachment to the Persian Gulf.

“I loved seeing the teamwork; we had two helicopters,” she said. “We only had about 40 maintenance people there with us. We had nine pilots. I was the only female pilot out there, and we were flying every day.”

Hansen said being selected to command an air wing was one of her biggest accomplishments. 

“Being here in Pensacola and realizing that thousands of people coming through training every year, that I had a little bit to do with our capabilities out in the fleet by leading strong (commanding officers) and a large staff,” Hansen said. 

Scott said her most rewarding experience was working in Pensacola, where she now trains air traffic controllers. 

“Pensacola was probably the greatest place to retire from, because in addition to teaching the air-traffic controllers, I teach the pilots as well.”

There was also another perk of working in Pensacola. 

“For my retirement, the Blue Angels flew me in a (F/A-18) Hornet, and not everybody gets to do it,” Scott said.

The next Women in Technology panel will cover cybersecurity and take place Oct. 14 during the annual iTen Wired Summit at the Hilton Pensacola Beach. 

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