Cou­ple sup­ports those who share their daugh­ter’s dream

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By John Fritze

The first wings ar­rived the night be­fore Va­lerie Cap­pelaere De­laney’s fu­neral, golden pins spaced with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion along the length of dark-green para­chute straps.

The pins, hun­dreds of them, were sent by other fe­male naval avi­a­tors — ju­nior of­fi­cers to ad­mi­rals — as a sign of re­spect for the 26-year-old Naval Academy grad­u­ate from Howard County who had re­lent­lessly pur­sued her own wings.

Three years af­ter Cap­pelaere De­laney’s EA-6B Prowler jet crashed dur­ing a train­ing ex­er­cise in eastern Wash­ing­ton, the wings have in­spired a foun­da­tion cre­ated by her par­ents to help other women to fly.

Wings for Val dis­trib­utes schol­ar­ships to young women pur­su­ing ca­reers in avi­a­tion.

“Our goal is to carry on Val’s legacy,” said Doreen Cap­pelaere, her mother. “She reached out to those ahead of her for men­tor­ship, and she reached back to those be­hind her to help.”

Women make up less than 9 per­cent of the Navy’s roughly 13,000 avi­a­tors, ac­cord­ing to a spokes­woman. Only about 4 per­cent of pi­lots hold­ing air­line trans­port cer­tifi­cates are women, ac­cord­ing to the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

There were just over 39,000 fe­male civil­ian pi­lots in 2015, in­clud­ing stu­dents, pri­vate pi­lots and com­mer­cial pi­lots — up from about 36,000 in 2006.

There are many rea­sons for the small num­ber of fe­male pi­lots, an­a­lysts say. One ma­jor fac­tor: Air­lines his­tor­i­cally have hired from the mil­i­tary. And the Navy opened com­bat mis­sions to women only rel­a­tively re­cently, in 1993.

Peggy Chabrian, pres­i­dent of the Ohiobased Women in Avi­a­tion In­ter­na­tional, said her group is work­ing with schools and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar or­ga­ni­za­tions to chal­lenge long-held as­sump­tions about the in­dus­try. As part of the ef­fort, the non­profit helps to iden­tify ap­pli­cants for groups across the coun­try, in­clud­ing Wings for Val.

“Even to­day, you’ll find high school coun­selors or teach­ers where avi­a­tion [for girls] doesn’t come to mind right away,” Chabrian said.

The Cap­pelaere fam­ily is hop­ing to chip away at one of the im­ped­i­ments: cost. The group has awarded schol­ar­ships to three

women since its in­cep­tion in 2014.

The group is set to hold its sec­ond fundraiser on Satur­day at the Women in Mil­i­tary Ser­vice for Amer­ica Me­mo­rial at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery. Ni­cole Mann, a NASA as­tro­naut, Naval Academy grad­u­ate and Marine lieu­tenant colonel, is sched­uled to speak.

Wings for Val has awarded rel­a­tively small schol­ar­ships, a few thou­sand dol­lars each. But re­cip­i­ents said their awards have made a dif­fer­ence both fi­nan­cially and psy­cho­log­i­cally. Hav­ing sup­port for their ef­fort to break into a field with few fe­male role mod­els, they said, is ben­e­fi­cial.

“It helps a ton,” said Ash­ley Tay­lor, a smoke jumper for the U.S. For­est Ser­vice who wants to fly the planes she now para­chutes out of. “It re­ally just so­lid­i­fies that I’ll be able to do it.”

Tay­lor, who re­ceived a schol­ar­ship from the group last year, jumps ahead of wild­fires, re­moves the brush that fu­els the flames, and then hikes back out. She is of­ten the only wo­man in her crew.

The 30-year-old Idaho wo­man, who has a busi­ness de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of Montana, loves the job, but is cog­nizant of the pos­si­bil­ity of a fu­ture in­jury.

If jump­ing to the ground be­came im­pos­si­ble, be­com­ing a pi­lot would al­low her to fight fires from the air. She has her pri­vate pi­lot’s li­cense and will be­gin work this fall on her in­stru­ment rat­ing so she can fly in ad­verse weather.

“I just de­cided that it would be a re­ally cool backup plan,” she said. “I just started try­ing to find a way to stay in the world that I love.”

Cap­pelaere De­laney was in­spired to fly by con­ver­sa­tions with her grand­fa­ther, a re­tired Air Force pi­lot. Her fam­ily and friends said she pur­sued her goal with pas­sion, and some­times against the odds. Wings for Val has awarded schol­ar­ships to three aspiring fe­male pi­lots.

She didn’t make it into the Naval Academy af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Cen­ten­nial High School in 2004, de­spite good grades. Rather than giv­ing up and go­ing to an­other school, she took a year of prepara­tory stud­ies in Mas­sachusetts and won a place in An­napo­lis the fol­low­ing year.

She grad­u­ated from the academy in 2009 with a de­gree in aero­nau­ti­cal en­gi­neer­ing, was com­mis­sioned an en­sign in the Navy, and earned pro­mo­tion to lieu­tenant ju­nior grade.

She served with the Elec­tronic At­tack Squadron VAQ-129, a train­ing group based at Naval Air Sta­tion Whid­bey Is­land in Wash­ing­ton. The EA-6B Prowler is used pri­mar­ily for jam­ming en­emy radar and ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

She mar­ried Sean De­laney, a fel­low

“Just hav­ing this com­mu­nity en­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to get in­volved is im­por­tant.” Chelsea At­wa­ter, Wings for Val schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ent

Mary­land na­tive, academy grad­u­ate and Navy pi­lot, in 2012.

Her plane crashed on March 11, 2013, in a field about 40 miles west of Spokane, Wash., killing all three crew mem­bers. A Navy in­ves­ti­ga­tion found the most likely cause was pi­lot er­ror.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors found the in­struc­tor eval­u­at­ing the flight on board lacked the hours re­quired to safely mon­i­tor the low-level ma­neu­vers Cap­pelaere De­laney was at­tempt­ing.

Her friends started col­lect­ing the wings, and gave the ini­tial set to Doreen and Pa­trice Cap­pelaere the night be­fore her fu­neral. They are now on dis­play at the Women’s Me­mo­rial at Ar­ling­ton, where Cap­pelaere De­laney is buried.

Doreen Cap­pelaere said women con­tin- ue to add wings to the ex­hibit.

Chelsea At­wa­ter was the first to re­ceive a schol­ar­ship from the group. The Ari­zona wo­man spent years as a Grand Canyon river guide be­fore de­cid­ing she wanted to get out of rafts and into he­li­copters.

At­wa­ter worked at her li­cense for five years, and fin­ished her train­ing last month. She hopes to pi­lot mede­vac flights.

“I don’t have a whole lot of men­tors, or peo­ple who have done this be­fore,” said At­wa­ter. “Just hav­ing this com­mu­nity en­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to get in­volved is im­por­tant.”

It’s used by po­lice de­part­ments through­out the coun­try.

Po­lice in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, Calif., have used the ser­vice for large sport­ing and com­mu­nity events, said Of­fi­cer Jen­nifer Mar­latt, a spokes­woman for the de­part­ment. Of­fi­cers look for key words such as “fight,” “riot,” “gun,” “bomb,” “shoot,” and “drink,” she said.

De­tec­tives use it in “ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tions” to search for clues that could help them de­ter­mine a mo­tive, and to lo­cate wit­nesses, Mar­latt said.

Po­lice have also used Ge­ofee­dia to mon­i­tor schools that are locked down by threats. Po­lice in Chicago use Ge­ofee­dia and pro­grams like it to mon­i­tor pub­lic so­cial media dur­ing “spe­cial events and no­table in­ci­dents,” spokesman An­thony Guglielmi said in an e-mail.

Lee Row­land, se­nior staff at­tor­ney with the ACLU’s Speech, Pri­vacy & Technology Project, said so­cial media mon­i­tor­ing by law en­force­ment is a “bur­geon­ing prac­tice.”

Row­land warned it can tar­get re­li­gious and eth­nic mi­nori­ties dis­pro­por­tion­ately.

“It floods agen­cies with in­for­ma­tion on in­no­cent in­di­vid­u­als and con­duct which just makes it more dif­fi­cult to iden­tify and re­spond to ac­tual threats,” she said.

She said con­tracts with pri­vate com­pa­nies also raise con­cerns be­cause de­tails of the technology is of­ten “kept as trade se­crets.”

There are also is­sues with due process, she said.

“Once the gov­ern­ment has col­lected and re­tained a per­son’s in­for­ma­tion, it can be al­most im­pos­si­ble for a per­son to cor­rect any er­rors in that in­for­ma­tion,” she said. “The lack of any rem­edy or due process com­pounds the harms of the ini­tial data col­lec­tion it­self.”


Pat and Doreen Cap­pelaere es­tab­lished Wings for Val in honor of their daugh­ter, Va­lerie Cap­pelaere De­laney. Cap­pelaere De­laney, a Naval Academy grad­u­ate and a Navy avi­a­tor, died in March 2013 when the jet she was pi­lot­ing crashed in Wash­ing­ton state.


“Our goal is to carry on Val’s legacy,” says her mother, Doreen Cap­pelaere.

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