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College Issue: Paper airplanes are cool
Embry-Riddle combines with local non-profit to help dreams take flight

Paper airplanes might not be the first thing that comes to mind in conversations about inspiring education, but a local group hopes the next Amelia Earhart will discover a passion for flight while creasing of a sheet of paper.

Southern Wings, the Savannah chapter of the non-profit Women in Aviation is teaming up with renowned aeronautical university Embry-Riddle for a unique event that hopes to attract young women into the field of aviation. On September 27, the group will hold a paper airplane competition in Forsyth Park for girls ages 16 and younger in conjunction with the Savannah Jazz Festival's youth programming.

"In the aviation industry, women are a significant minority," says Carrie Goodwin, President of Southern Wings. "We target young women to try and get them interested in aviation at an early age and then go into it as they get older."

Although it's been over 75 years since Earhart was the first woman to complete a solo transatlantic flight, the numbers of women involved in aviation remain surprisingly low. According to the FAA's Aeronautical Center's most recent data, only about six percent of pilots are female, something WIA and Southern Wings would like to correct, and paper airplanes seem like a good place to start.

"The kids come and the chapter members will help them create a paper airplane, and try to teach them why it needs to be folded a certain way in order to make it fly," explains Goodwin.

The competitors will be judged on the distance their planes successfully travel, and each will have two attempts, with the longer of the flights being kept as their score. Participants will compete in four different age groups, 0-3, 4-7, 8-11 and 12-16.

This will be the second year Southern Wings has held the competition, and they hope that it will help inspire some of these girls to continue pursuing dreams of flight.

"We just want to get as many involved as possible, and get more women involved so we can make some history of our own," says Goodwin.

Although women make up such a small minority of the aviation industry, they have had a significant presence throughout the history of aeronautics. As early as 1906 E. Lillian Todd was designing and building aircrafts, and Helen Richey became the first female commercial airline pilot in 1934.

Besides the paper plane competition, Southern Wings also has plans to start doing more events in the coming year, including several speakers who will discuss women's role in aviation.

"We also educate the public about the role women have had in aviation throughout history all along," says Goodwin. "We've actually been involved in it just as long as the men have, but you don't hear about that."

Southern Wings Paper Airplane Competition for Young Women (age 16 and under)

When: September 27 at 2:30 p.m.

Where: Forsyth Park