Ainsley Martin Creates Whirly-Girls Video
When 16-year-old Ainsley Martin read Contact! Britain! by WG#4 Nancy Livingston Stratford, she was inspired by Nancy’s story about her time as a WWII ferry pilot with its challenges and adventures. Ainsley then looked for similar books and found very few. Having overheard conversations between her mother, Immediate Past President Alison Martin WG #1874, and other Whirly-Girls, she knew that these female helicopter pilots are inspiring, and their stories could excite and motivate youth to investigate aviation. Ainsley decided to make videos in the hope of both capturing the stories of this unique, impressive group and helping youth find out more about aviation. Because a new website video has been near the top of the wish list of the Whirly-Girls Board of Directors for many years, they were excited when Ainsley brought presented her proposal and are delighted to present it here.
This video is one of three created for the Whirly-Girls as part of Ainsley’s Girl Scout Gold Award Project – Collecting Their Stories: The Experiences of Female Helicopter Pioneers. The project’s purpose is to help bring together and inspire viewers to learn more about helicopter aviation and women pilots. This new video showcases current members and some of the benefits of the organization, such as mentoring and camaraderie, and can aid women pilots by allowing them access to the stories of those before them, showing that they aren’t alone in this field, and empowering them to ask for mentoring, help, and advice.
Ainsley explains, “Fewer than 6% of helicopter pilots are women, and their singular perspectives will be lost if they don’t get the opportunity to share them. We are slowly losing the stories of the original pioneers. These are stories of our past that could inspire more girls to pursue STEM. We are still early enough in helicopter history that today’s young female pilots are pioneers as well, with notable narratives that could help younger pilots feel less alone and more comfortable requesting mentorship, increasing their chance of succeeding in a male-dominated industry. By archiving the stories of these amazing women, people who are interested in women’s history and aviation can gain a deeper understanding of why these women chose this path, the challenges they’ve overcome, and maybe be inspired by their stories.”
For this project, Ainsley visited the Whirly-Girls Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet in Anaheim at HAI HELI-EXPO 2020. She spoke to WG#4 Nancy Livingston Stratford in her home, met Whirly-Girls in hotels and in the convention center, and interviewed members over Zoom. She then compiled the stories to create three themed videos: the one linked here, a youth-oriented presentation for upcoming Give it a Whirl events and classroom presentations, and an edited compilation of the interviews to be held in the Whirly-Girls collection at the Texas Woman’s University (TWU) archives.
“This project was a powerful experience, and I will appreciate it for the rest of my life. From the interviews, I learned about how to succeed in difficult careers, specifically male-dominated fields, and about perseverance, following your passions, thinking ahead, self-confidence, and the importance of supporting each other,” expresses Ainsley. “It was especially interesting to listen to some of the older pilots talk about their experiences. Overall, it was extremely rewarding to see my hard work come together into something that I could be proud of and that would continue to make a difference far into the future. Many girls don’t realize women can be pilots and, the more that we share the stories of female aviators, the more girls will realize that they have the power to fly too.”