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Bend aviator, airport manager soars through ‘glass ceiling’

In honor of Women's History Month, NewsChannel 21 celebrates women in aviation

BEND, Ore., (KTVZ)-- NewsChannel 21 sat down with Bend Municipal Airport Director Tracy Williams to discuss how far women have come in the aviation and aerospace fields.

Williams became airport director at the Bend Airport last April, but she's flown high in the aerospace and aviation industry as a private pilot and airport director for more than 30 years.

“Aviation is what I do -- it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, and it’s all I ever want to do. I absolutely love this industry," Williams said.

Williams has been paving the way-- or rather, the sky-- for other women in aviation, who can, as she put it, "say, 'Yes! I can do that! I can be that person when I grow up!'"

Her interests in aviation sparked early on, she told NewsChannel 21 she was just 5 years old when her father first took her to the Detroit Metro Airport. Williams says she knew then that she'd become a pilot.

Historically, she says, the aviation industry is a male-dominated field, with roots stemming for most men by way of the military.

The Federal Aviation Administration reports women make up roughly 30 percent of the aviation industry, and fewer than 8 percent of pilots in the U.S. are women.

Yet slowly but surely, women are charting new territory in the skies.

Williams explained, “Now, there are (women) aircraft and power plant mechanics, there are astronauts and pilots and CEOs of industry."

While navigating the gender imbalance in the air and space industry, Williams soared to new heights, receiving several degrees in professional aeronautics and aeronautic science and serving in the Air Force.

“I was the first African American female to earn accreditation as an accredited airport executive through the American Association of Airport Executives," Williams said.

She said she's accomplished many firsts in aviation, and one of her biggest influences is Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to become a pilot in the U.S.

“I had a school teacher who gave me a book on Bessie Coleman when I was very young, and I was like, ‘Yep -- if she can do it, I can do it. She looks like me. I can do this,'" Williams recalled.

She says regardless of ethnicity, gender or background, women should pursue non-traditional fields, especially aviation. She adds that the industry afforded her many opportunities and opened many doors for her, and believes other women can accomplish the same.

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.

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