Women in Aviation and the U.S. Air Force

The 2020 Women in Aviation International Conference was held from March 5-7, at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando. An industrywide celebration of the wonder of flight, and the commitment to gender equity and representation in the field, thousands attended this event last week.

Of those thousands, were two particularly trailblazing women in Barbara Barrett and Stayce Harris. Barrett, the current Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, was a keynote speaker at the conference. She was in good company among an already stellar roster of speakers. Secretary Barrett joined Stephanie Chung, JetSuite President; Col. Eileen Collins, NASA Astronaut; Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, U.S. Air Force; and Joan Robinson-Berry, Boeing Global Services Vice President and Chief Engineer.

In addition to speaking at the event, Barrett and Harris were brought together for a very special unveiling.

U.S. Air Force Secretary, Barbara Barrett with Service Members at the WAI Conference 2020

U.S. Air Force Secretary, Barbara Barrett with Service Members at the WAI Conference 2020

Breaking Barriers

Although she never set out to break barriers, Stayce Harris knocked them down for the entirety of her career. Inspired by her father, Clyde, a U.S. Air Force Service Member, she set out to serve her country. She earned her pilot’s wings in 1984, ultimately completing over 2,500 hours flying the C-141B Starlifter, C-130H Hercules, and KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft. 

In 2016, she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general by President Barak Obama. She was both the first woman ever to hold the position and the highest-ranking African-American woman in the history of the Air Force. Harris’ career has inspired women to achieve and lead with the confidence that they can succeed.

Legacy and Leaders of Tomorrow

On Friday, March 6, Harris was present at the unveiling of a portrait at the 2020 Women in Aviation International Conference, as a special invited guest of the AFRC History and Heritage Office. Also in attendance were the Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett and Maj. Gen. John Flournoy, AFRC Deputy Commander.

Senior Master Sgt. Darby Perrin, a heritage and combat artist with the AFRC Office of History and Heritage, painted the portrait. It shows Harris in a flight jacket with a KC-135R and C-141-B, both of which she piloted, flying overhead.

Lieutenant General Stayce Harris at the unveiling of her portrait at the Women in Aviation Conference 2020

Lieutenant General Stayce Harris at the unveiling of her portrait at the Women in Aviation Conference 2020

]The goal of the portrait is to recognize the incredible achievements of Harris, who retired last March after 37 years of service. The unveiling provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for young women to engage with both Lieutenant General Harris and Secretary Barrett.

Women continue to elevate themselves to new ranks. They rise to the occasion in their work and their lives. Aviation is a world of limitless opportunity. To learn about aviation maintenance training, and soar to new heights like Harris and Barrett, fill out the form below.