Set your sights on the skies, but keep your focus straight ahead.

That was the message delivered by three guest speakers Thursday (March 24) as the College’s chapter of Women in Aviation International celebrated Women in Aviation Day. Together, lofty goals and laser-like attention to detail will help any would-be aviator succeed.

“If you have a goal, don’t look to the left or to the right,” said speaker Georgette Sgarro, assistant air traffic manager at Kennedy Airport. “Keep focused on your path.”

More than 75 students from Vaughn, August Martin High School in Jamaica and Middle School 226 in South Ozone Park attended the signature event of Vaughn’s Women in Aviation chapter on Thursday. In addition to Sgarro, they were treated to the insights of two other aviation professionals — Maureen Patton, managing director of FedEx Express, the nation’s largest overnight transporter; and Denise Waters, an aviation mechanic, pilot and writer.

The high-school and middle-school students came at the invitation of Camila Turrieta, president of Vaughn’s Women in Aviation chapter and a graduate of August Martin and M.S. 226.

Patton began the discussion by describing her role as chief maintenance manager for FedEx’s fleet of 600 jets. A Navy veteran, she is the only female senior manager in FedEx aircraft maintenance.

“It’s been a challenge being a female in a male-dominated world,” Patton said. “But I’ve always believed that if you can dream it, you can achieve it. Education is important and so is picking a career at which you will have fun. I love my job and my career path.”

Sgarro took a most unconventional path to a top-level controller’s position. She began her career three decades ago as a secretary in the New York Common IFR Room, where she was exposed to the science of air traffic control. In 1982, she was hired as a controller at LaGuardia Airport and six years after that became the first female supervisor in the New York area.

She was joined as a panelist by Waters, president of the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance and a two-time winner of the Air Race Classic, an annual women’s transcontinental race. Waters also competed in the 2001 London to Sydney, Australia Air Race.

Waters holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education and came to aviation after 15 years as an executive in the telecommunications industry. She said she uses all of those skills in her new life as an aviator.

“I apply what I learned in those other disciplines to flying,” Waters said. “The discipline I needed to learn to play instruments I used to learn to fix a plane or fly a plane.”


Aviator and writer Denise Waters addresses Vaughn’s Women in Aviation chapter Thursday.