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Alaska Airlines Pilots Bring Newest Boeing to OSH

By James Wynbrandt

July 28, 2016 - In celebration of Boeing’s 100th anniversary and WomenVenture 2016, Alaska Airlines yesterday flew in its newest Boeing 737-900ER from Seattle, commanded by a female crew, the cabin filled with female employees from Alaska Airlines, Boeing and Virgin America, and female students from Raisbeck Aviation High School in Tukwila, Washington.

“This is my first time in Oshkosh,” said Capt. Debbie Waingrow, after stepping off the aircraft. “I couldn’t be any happier that we got to come here and bring this airplane.”

Alaska Airlines operates an all-Boeing fleet of more than 150 737s, and the flight was also a celebration of the partnership between the two Seattle-based companies, with the aircraft sporting Boeing centennial livery: swaths of blues and pale green sweeping across the rear fuselage and empennage.

First Officer Patricia Tomich, also making her first visit here, recalled being inspired with the dream of flight at her first air show, at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, while Waingrow cited a Pitts performance at the Chino Air Show that helped stir her interest in aviation.

Among those on hand to greet them was Christine Walsh, Boeing deputy test pilot, 737 program, who’s taking a break here from her work in the certification program for the new 737 MAX.

Altogether, one dozen of Alaska Airlines pilots — 10 who were aboard the flight — came for the fly-in this year, including Carolyn Riewdel of Fond du Lac. “I came [to AirVenture] every year as a teenager — I used to sell ice cream here,” said Riedel. “The reason I became a pilot is because of this air show. It’s kind of nice to be able to fly in now on a 737.” She credits her mother, EAA member Dianne Witte, with encouraging a passion for aviation in both her and her sister Crissy, who’s now a Delta Air Lines pilot.

Shortly after arrival, the crew and passengers assembled with hundreds of other women on Boeing Centennial Plaza for the annual WomenVenture group photo. (See page 12).

“It’s absolutely great to have young girls looking up to women pilots and see this as a career they could definitely have,” Waingrow said after the photo op.

Echoed fellow pilot Lacey Pittman, “We are here to encourage young women to pursue their dreams, follow their passions, and live a life of adventure.”

Sunny Reifel, who made her first trip to AirVenture last year “for fun,” advised perseverance in pursuing one’s dreams. “If you ever hit a plateau, it’s just part of the growth,” she said.

After a power lunch at Theater in the Woods with U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Meagan Flannigan and Navy combat veteran Vanessa Christie, the pilots and passengers headed off to enjoy a day at the air show, each with their own bucket list of attractions and activities to see and experience. After the night air show last night, the exhausted and exhilarated passengers reboarded for the flight back to Seattle, under the command of Capt. Janiece Brown and First Officer Miel Dotson. Waingrow and Tomich stayed behind to enjoy a little more of the fly-in.

“Aviation unifies everybody,” said Tomich. “Even though it’s my first time here, it always feels like home when you’re surrounded by aviation.”

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