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Reasons to smile: Area females who soar, a celebration of 'Women in Aviation Week'

In this Reasons To Smile segment, we honor a few area women who are blazing trails in the friendly skies.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — Throughout March, aka Women's History Month, Newswatch 16 is spotlighting area movers and shakers, women who are making an impact in our communities and their fields.

That includes a group from northeastern Pennsylvania who are taking to the skies.

Not only is March Women's History Month, but March 7 kicks off "Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week." One big focus of the week is a call to action to encourage more women to get into the field.

Something these four from our area are hoping to achieve with their passion for flying.

When you think of legendary women in flight, Amelia Earhart might just come to mind. While she's one of the most notable female pilots in aviation history, these four from northeastern Pennsylvania may just land their own lasting legacy in our area. After all, for pilots like Molly Van Scoy of Shavertown, it's in her blood.

"My mom is a pilot, and my brother is actually a pilot for the same company that I work at. And then my family operates a local airport in the Forty Fort/Kingston area," Molly Van Scoy said.

It's also where Molly's friend, Ashley, works.

"I'm currently a full-time certified flight instructor at the Wyoming Valley Airport," Ashley Abda of Clarks Summit said.

It's where Ashley teaches the next generation of pilots, including Christina Mercadante from Mountain Top.

"I worked in aviation and the Marine Corps for the past five years and that kind of helped inspire me to become a pilot. I have no one in my family in the aviation industry, so it's a big leap of faith. And I took that first flight, and I never second-guessed it since. It's exactly what I want to do," Christina Mercadante of Mountain Top said. 

And at the Wyoming Valley Airport, where Christina is getting her wings under Ashley's close watch, is where a number of female pilots often come together to hold events, including this past fall's Girls in Aviation Day.

These pilots band together, all to teach, inspire and share their passion for the field with young girls. Molly, who is the President of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Women in Aviation, helps lead the event. Her mom Bridget, also a commercial airline pilot, is one of her inspirations.

"She did it with all four of us kids at home and made a successful career and a successful home life. And so I just always knew that it was an opportunity for me," Molly Van Scoy said.

"I fly a 787 for a major airline. I've been doing that for 36 years at the airline. I've been flying 42 years total across my lifetime here. And I get to travel overseas a lot domestically, Caribbean, South America. I get to see the world. And that's very exciting for me because the world from up above is absolutely beautiful, peaceful, quiet. When I first started out many years ago, there weren't a lot of females in the industry," Bridget Van Scoy, Molly's mother, said. 

While some companies are seeing a few more women here and there, it's still "a male-dominated field," according to Ashley Abda. 

A field that continues to face a pilot shortage, and that's only expected to get worse.

One study projects the need for an additional 12,000 pilots by 2023, mainly due to an aging pilot population and heavy use of early retirements. 

"So not only is there a need for pilots in general, but we need to fill those seats with female aviators and technicians and managers and air traffic controllers, so it doesn't stop at just the pilot level on the flight deck. It goes beyond that because it takes a team to really get an aircraft off the ground. We need females to help us out. So, we have to be responsible to lead by example for these young girls," Bridget and Molly said. 

More women in aviation could help cut down on those stunned looks this pair often gets from passengers.

Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey asked Bridget if people are surprised when they see her. 

She said, "Yeah, it's eye-raising. You'll come in, and they'll like, are you going back to serve the customers as a flight attendant? And I just come back and say, no, I'm going to drive this airplane. I've had up to three females at once fly together. And it always people come up and look and smile and take pictures because it's still a novelty to them. But it isn't a novelty to us. We've been doing it a long time, enjoy it, and have a lot of fun doing it."

Christiana Mercadante has some advice for women considering taking to the air.

"I would just tell women to go try it. Just go try it. You never know. I took that leap of faith, and I've never looked back," Christina said.

The big barrier that often keeps many women out of the cockpit is often the cost of flight school and lessons.

To help offset costs, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Women in Aviation is actually offering scholarships for the 2022 year.

Click here for the 2020 Scholarship form and information.

Applications for the 2022 scholarship must be done and emailed to nepawaichapter@gmail.com by March 18 at 11:59 p.m. A resume, letter(s) of recommendation, and an essay will also be needed.

Over the last year, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of Women in Aviation has hosted events and activities to help generate income for their scholarship fund. They are offering five scholarships for the 2022 Spring season; check them out! You do not need to be a member to apply, although it is encouraged. You also do not need to have any prior flight experience! They are looking for young ladies excited about aviation!

The cost of flying at Valley Aviation is $135/hour for the aircraft rental and $40 for the flight instructor. This is normal if not more affordable flight training cost per hour compared to other flight schools.

Check out the links below for more information:

WATCH: In the video below, pilot Margrit Waltz, from Moscow, celebrated her 900th transatlantic crossing at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.

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