Dozens of East Bay teenage girls took to the skies Sunday in small personal aircraft, flying thousands of feet above the Earth to experience aviation firsthand during Women of Aviation Worldwide Week.
"It was fun -- it looked like a big giant board game with tiny little cars," said 13-year-old Michaela Price of her first-ever flight above her hometown of Brentwood.
Michaela, along with a couple dozen other girls, took turns flying out of the Byron Airport.
"(On) the takeoff, like my stomach kind of turned a little bit, but then it went back once we were in the air," Michaela said, grinning from ear-to-ear. "Then, the landing, once the wheels hit the floor, that was the bumpy part and everything else was smooth."
The event, run by volunteers, was organized by Danville resident Jacquie Warda who also held a similar talk and demonstration earlier in the week in Livermore for a couple of young women, who also got the opportunity to fly.
"It's hard to describe, because there isn't anything you can do on the ground that is similar to it," Warda said.
This unique feeling and the lack of women in the field of aviation is exactly why Warda wanted to share her experience with other young women. Each was awarded an inaugural flight certificate and given a book about women in aviation.
"People say it's about being free, slipping the bonds of Earth," Warda said.
"And what it does to your soul if it's meant for you -- there is only one way to find that out," she added. "That's one of the reasons why we've got to get people in an airplane or they will never quite understand the allure or the excitement or the thrill of it."
Kadie Ukkestad, 16, couldn't agree more, and after her first flight she is anxious to learn more about flying.
"It was so great being up there and controlling it. I had so much power and you were free to go wherever and you had open skies," said Kadie, her voice still shaking after the flight.
Kadie said that she took control of the aircraft and was able to fly the plane over her house in Discovery Bay and her school, Liberty High, in Brentwood.
"It was cool; it got me so excited," Kadie said. "We went about 120 miles per hour and (the pilot) said we were about halfway the height of Mt. Diablo."
Kadie described the differences she felt between being in an airliner and a small plane.
"You feel the little things, like (the pilot) said, 'the potholes' -- we would shake a little bit because of the wind," Kadie said.
As for landing, "it was way different than a big plane, the impact -- it was kind of squirrelly in the beginning," she said.
Warda said, "I don't expect them all to walk away wanting to be pilots, but I want them to walk away asking questions."
Flying is just one aspect of aviation, and Warda is hopeful that by providing these young women with a taste of aviation that they will take off in the field of aviation like she did 26 years ago.
"There are so many things that women can do in the aviation world," she said.
"There is traffic control, maintenance -- there are a lot of women in the military who go into the maintenance. They don't want to fly them; they're gear heads, they want to turn wrenches," Warda said. "What's a more cool thing to do than turning wrenches on an F-15 or an A-10?"
She added, "There's dispatching. There is corporate aviation. Every corporate aircraft has a management team; somebody has to schedule the airplane."
Women of Aviation Worldwide Week began as a single-day tribute event in 2010 celebrating the centennial of the first women to obtain a pilot's license -- Raymonde de Laroche on March 8, 1910. In the following year, the tribute grew to become a week of "Fly it Forward" with the hopes that pilots would take girls and women under their wing in an inaugural flight into the wild blue yonder and possibly into the field of aviation.
Warda's payoff for doing this: "The after smiles are always better than the before smiles."
Reach Karen Rarey at email@example.com.