Whirly-Girls – International Women Helicopter Pilots

Whirly-Girls International is a nonprofit, educational and charitable organization dedicated to advancing women in helicopter aviation.

Jean Ross Howard Phelan, Whirly-Girl #13, and five other female helicopter pilots (out of 13 worldwide) founded Whirly-Girls International in 1955. With the hopes of developing an organization where female pilots could share their experiences and information and find camaraderie, she and 12 other charter members representing women helicopter pilots from France, Germany, and the United States, created this organization. Membership numbers were assigned to the 13 known female helicopter pilots worldwide based on when they earned their helicopter ratings.

As of 2022, there are more than 2,050 members representing 49 countries. The Whirly-Girls is an affiliate member of Helicopter Association International and holds its annual conference at HAI’s HELI-EXPO, the largest helicopter trade show in the world, usually held annually in the first week of March.

Whirly-Girls International’s goals:

  • Career Advancement: promotion of women in the helicopter industry through scholarship awards & mentoring
  • Networking and Camaraderie: exchange of information among women in helicopter aviation
  • Education and Outreach: promotion of community acceptance of rotorcraft through increasing public awareness of rotorcraft utility and versatility

The Whirly Girls Scholarship Fund, Inc. was established as a separate nonprofit organization to oversee and award helicopter flight training scholarships to women desiring a career in the helicopter industry. The Whirly-Girls and their supporters generally raise funds. The fund is a federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity and administers many separate scholarships valued, in some recent years, at more than $175,000.

The Whirly-Girls Scholarship Selection Considerations:

General Selection Factors:

  • Evidence that the candidate has an established purpose in mind for the scholarship training,
  • Indication of a reasonable probability that the candidate will be successful in the training
  • Proof that the candidate will reap training’s benefits
  • Testimony that the candidate will share your talents with others

Detailed Selection Factors:

  • The goal for the flight training is specified.
  • Experience, service to others, and what others have to say about the candidate through letters of recommendation.
  • Achievements in life, particularly in aviation and the helicopter industry.
  • Attitude toward self and others, as shown through the entire application package.
  • Neatness, ability to follow instructions, completeness, and application accuracy.
  • Reliability, motivation, and commitment to success as shown through prior employment, jobs, activities, and service to others.
  • Dedication to the career as shown through prior employment, especially in the helicopter industry.
  • Ability to accept responsibility and teamwork as shown through previous jobs and activities.
  • Financial need.

The Whirly-Girls Scholarship Eligibility Conditions:

  • Applicant must be an active member of the Whirly-Girls organization
  • Applicants for the Helicopter Add-on Scholarship must be female Associate members.
  • Scholarship winners must provide the scholarship committee with a plan to use the scholarship 

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