When the Flight Path Museum at LAX asked Atlas First Officer Karen Gerharter-Goodman to lead a program that provides young people with a chance to explore the first steps toward a potential career in aviation, her answer was an enthusiastic “yes.”
Karen had been fine-tuning her own idea for a project to encourage would-be pilots. She was especially driven to show young women with dreams of flying that aviation careers are open to them.
The Flight Path Flyers program, which features an introduction to flight training, has the same goal. It aims to draw young women as well as others from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented among the pilot ranks.
Karen is motivated by the memory of her 99-year-old mother-in-law, who was fascinated by aircraft and flight but, like other women of her generation, never had an opportunity to pursue her passion for aviation.
In 2011, soon after Karen earned her 747-type rating, she was scheduled for a tour of a cargo 747, and she invited her mother-in-law, who was 88 at the time, to come along.
“She came with me – climbing up the stairs and everything. She was so thrilled to be walking onto this 747 and seeing the immensity of the plane and the controls on the flight deck,” said Karen, who joined Atlas in January 2019. “She was just amazed and in awe for years afterward, up until she died this past July. She always remembered going on that plane and what a remarkable experience it was.”
So, for nine weeks which began Oct. 15, Karen honors her mother-in-law by spending her Saturday mornings encouraging those who might not otherwise be able to imagine themselves in a cockpit.
“I want to say to them, ‘Look, this is attainable. It is a viable career’,” said Karen, who wanted to be an astronaut before she decided to pursue her career as a commercial airline pilot. “It is a lot of fun if you are willing to put the work in.”
This session of the Flight Path Flyers program, which has nine participants ranging in age from 13 to 21, represents the program’s relaunch following a hiatus during the pandemic.
Karen designed the program’s curriculum, and she intends to invite colleagues to speak to the class about other areas of the aviation industry, including Maintenance/Mechanics and Air Traffic Control, she said.
The classes do not include flying lessons. But, according to the Flight Path Museum, graduates from previous cohorts of the program have gone on to complete flight instruction and earn their pilot licenses.
The Flight Path Museum LAX is located in the airport’s former Imperial Terminal and features exhibits, including those dedicated to commercial aviation history and space exploration as well as a collection of flight crew uniforms. Learn more about the museum and its exhibits and programs here.