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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.


Bend / Central Oregon / Government-politics / Top Stories
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Arielle Brumfield

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



  1. Way to go!
    These days, it’s refreshing to see someone who relies on hard work to achieve great things, as opposed to whining about the lack of handouts they need to be competitive.

    1. Absolutely agree. Vision, planning, hard work and persistence are qualities I respect. Making excuses for failure is not. If there were more people like her, regardless of skin tone, we would all be better off. The current drive to see who can be offended, angered, hurt and otherwise emotionally distraught is neuroticism and will lead the whole country astray. There are plenty of “white people” who do this and I don’t feel sorry for them and also won’t feel sorry for someone who is dark for the same reason. The skin tone doesn’t change my perspective if you are advocating for your own failure or always blaming someone else or society for why your life sucks.

      The one perspective I would add is that you don’t need to see “someone like me” successful to be successful. Even if you look like everyone else, there are going to be people who are going to try to throw you under the bus/sabotage you. There are wolves in sheeps clothing everywhere: they will take advantage of whatever weakness they think you may perceive yourself as having. There will always be those who don’t like you and only see your faults. Never let them see you sweat and always project confidence.

  2. Soon the day will come when we achieve gender equity in jobs such as asphalt spreaders, roofers, sanitation workers, structural weldors, and coal miners. How can a little girl grow up and want to be a roofer if she never sees a woman roofer in the middle of summer? We need TRUE equity.

  3. Well you know there was Amelia Earhart. Also recent number of female Air Force members make up 21%, over 800 serve as pilots and 300+ as navigators. Women commercial pilots are over 7000. But hey as long as we’re checking the boxes regarding sex and race I guess this article is news worthy. Looks like judging by the numbers if a women of any race in America wants to pursue a career in aviation there’s nothing holding them back.

  4. Lawl so true. If liberals are so concerned with equal job representation then where’s the outcry for women’s equal representation in labor intensive jobs?

  5. I’m proud to have someone as accomplished as Mrs Williams is as our Bend Airport Director. Thank you very much to KTVZ for highlighting her important contribution to our community!

      1. So you would like your bills to go up 41% overnight? I got news for ya, it doesn’t take much to own an airplane. Buying it is the cheap part. Maintenance and a place to put it are where it gets expensive. I know plenty of folks that own airplanes that would be considered not very well off. They choose to spend their money on airplanes, not other stuff. The folks that have lots of other hobbies generally end up dead in a crash.

  6. More baloney from kt-pravda. The gender-equality garbage conveniently ignores the fact that pretty much 99.99% of dangerous, health destroying jobs are held by males and 98+% job related fatalities are males.
    We need to ramp up equality on all areas so unless 50% of work related deaths are females everyone should just shut up about some magical “glass” ceiling!
    But I guess this won’t be published, will it Barney?

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