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Sarina Houston, a certified flight instructor and wife of a KC-135 pilot at RAF Mildenhall, is setting up a local chapter of Women in Aviation International, a networking and support group for women in the aviation industry. “It’s a great way to network with other women in the career field,” she said.

Sarina Houston, a certified flight instructor and wife of a KC-135 pilot at RAF Mildenhall, is setting up a local chapter of Women in Aviation International, a networking and support group for women in the aviation industry. “It’s a great way to network with other women in the career field,” she said. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

A society dedicated to women who fly is touching down at a U.K. base near you.

Women in Aviation International, a group that gives women in the industry a chance to network and advance, is being set up in the U.K.

Sarina Houston, a certified flight instructor and wife of a KC-135 pilot at RAF Mildenhall, is leading the way.

"Out here, I didn’t have a chapter to belong to," she said. "It’s a great way to network with other women in the career field."

Today, the WAI boasts more than 15,000 members worldwide in a variety of chapters. Despite this growth, flying is still a boy’s club in many ways. Women represent only about 6 percent of the total pilot population, according to the group.

Houston has been a member since 2002 and saw a need when she arrived in England with her husband about a year ago.

Besides networking, the organization gave away more than $700,000 in scholarships last year, and its members come from the public and private sectors, Houston said.

But WAI isn’t just looking for female aviators. Anyone, man or woman, doing anything flight-related is welcome to join, she said.

"I really want to clarify it’s open to all career fields, not just pilots," she said.

WAI was formally established in 1994 to encourage women seeking opportunities in aviation, according to the group’s Web site.

The nonprofit organization’s membership rolls include astronauts, corporate pilots, maintenance technicians and a host of others.

Even students interested in aviation are encouraged to check out what WAI has to offer, she said.

"It’s by no means a ‘let’s bash men’ group, or ‘pity us,’ " said Houston, who has a degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in aviation. "It’s supporting each other and reaching out to younger women, to mentor and guide them."


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