GILFORD — Some future pilots may well have discovered their passion at Girl Scout Aviation Day. Eight middle-school-age Girl Scouts not only learned the principles of flying, they got to go up in the air with the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles pilots at the Laconia Municipal Airport in Gilford on May 4 — and even took the controls.

“I didn’t realize how beautiful New Hampshire really is until I was flying over it,” said Diya Bhatnagar, a sixth-grader from Nashua. “The experience of having the handle in my hand was just amazing.”

Girl Scouts Ella Gagnon, Alexa Kruger, Adrielle Martin, Jennasis Martin, Makayla Meehan, Lauren Puopolo, and Lily Schneider, all seventh-graders from Hudson, along with Diya, started their visit by learning the principles of aeronautics, then got to take flight and put their new knowledge into action.

“The girls did great!” said Dan Caron, director of education services at WinnAero in Gilford. “The pilots were impressed with how well they were able to fly the planes. All the girls kept the plane in level flight and completed some banking turns. The pilots took charge for the takeoffs and landings.”

Caron noted that there are thousands of career openings in aviation. He said the shortage of pilots, maintainers, airport operators, air traffic controllers, and others will only create a greater demand in the future.

“My students at Gilford High School, your (Girl) Scouts, Civil Air Patrol cadets, students who attend our ACE Academies, and others will be the ones to fill these shortages, if they are aware of the careers available in aerospace. That is one of the reasons we do these events,” he said. “The second reason — it’s a lot of fun!”

WinnAero’s mission is to interest young people in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through aviation and aerospace programs and experiences, and to foster enthusiasm for flight in people of all ages.

When Juliette Gordon Low founded Girl Scouts in 1912, she encouraged girls from the start to break barriers, even offering an aviation badge from 1916 to 1920. Now Girl Scouts offers 82 badges in the STEM fields.

Girl Scouts challenges stereotypes by providing girls of all ages with interactive and engaging programs that increase their interest in STEM. According to a Girl Scout Research Institute study, Girl Scouts are more likely than non-Girl Scouts to participate in STEM activities such as conducting science experiments, designing video games, and building robots (60 percent versus 35 percent). The inclusive, all-female environment of a Girl Scout troop creates a safe space where girls can try new things, develop a range of skills, take on leadership roles, and just be themselves.

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