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The History of Professional Women Controllers Inc

1945 Kansas CityThe Professional Women Controllers, Inc. (PWC) is a professional organization founded in 1978 by Sue Townsend and Jacque Smith. The organization was incorporated in the State of Delaware in 1979 and was officially recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1980. Since its inception, PWC has been an advocate of a culturally diverse workforce. PWC works with the FAA and other organizations to create an environment where all employees are able to contribute.

A Historical Walk through Professional Women Controllers, Inc.

Historical facts provided by Sue Mostert Townsend

Co-Founder and First President of PWC (79-81) Some of you may not be aware of how PWC got started. On October 28, 1968, after serving 6 years and 8 months in the United States Army, Sue Mostert entered the FAA. A few days later, on November 1, 1968, Jacque Smith entered the FAA after serving a hitch in the United States Navy. The two of them attended training at the FAA Academy together over the next two months. After successful completion of the Academy training, Sue was assigned to Albany Tower, NY, and Jacque to Los Angeles Center.

A year later, in September, Sue requested to take her first Familiarization trip on an American Airlines flight from Albany to Los Angeles with a change of planes in Chicago. The request was initially disapproved because the airline did not allow women in the cockpit.

From 1970 through 1977, Sue and Jacque stayed in touch and continued to talk about other women in the FAA with similar problems they were incurring as the only women in their facilities. They decided to try to contact other women and get together to discuss their issues. So, on May 16, 1977, Sue wrote a letter to the FAA Director of Civil Rights detailing her and Jacque’s careers to date and their desire to start an organization- PWC. Sue also requested, under the Freedom of Information Act, a complete list of all women 2152’s. The letterhead “Professional Women Controllers” was used for the first time in making this request. Sue received a response from Civil Rights on June 9, 1977 stating that they had forwarded the request to the Labor Relations Office to determine if the request could be granted. It was, and on June 28, 1977, Sue received a list of all women air traffic control specialists and the facilities at which they worked. Sue immediately shared the list and all correspondence with Jacque and they started making plans to contact the women.

Sue took the 800 women east of the Mississippi, and Jacque took the 700 west of the Mississippi. Sue designed the original flyer using a “Dress For Success” concept with a Brooks Brother ad from the NY Times depicting a woman in a business suit. The flyer gave the details for an upcoming conference to be held in Washington, DC in the Fall of 1978. The conference was later changed to Spring of 1979.

In May, 1978, Sue requested an updated list of women controllers from Civil rights and advised them of the plan to hold the first conference. In the Fall, Flyers were subsequently mailed to all 1500 women.

In January 1979, Sue and Jacque got together in Houston, at the home of Jean Loden, and held a planning meeting, and included Mary Brown, Gwen Sawyer and Joyce McIlrath. The name Professional Women Controllers was adopted by the group, and the original logo was designed by Mickey McIlrath, a professional artist and Joyce’s husband.

The next month, Sue began looking for an appropriate hotel/motel in the Washington, DC where they would hold the 1st conference. They chose the Holiday Inn in Bethesda, Maryland. In March, Sue received a letter of confirmation from the Holiday Inn for the conference, setting the dates 16-19 April 1979. All the women who returned the original flyer were notified of the plans and dates. Sue arranged the logistics for the conference- established a registration table, planned a cocktail party the first night, scheduled a conference room that would hold 200 people, and took care of other room arrangements, such as a telephone in the room, head table, microphones, podium, and coffee. She planned a banquet with a cocktail reception, approved menus and many other things. She also set up a tour of the FAA Headquarters, rented the buses to get back and forth, and printed the 1st conference packet and folder. For the last day, Sue arranged a breakfast for approximately 15 people at the hotel. April 16-19, 1979, the First PWC Conference was held at the Holiday Inn, Bethesda, MD. Sixty-five women returned flyers and 60 of them showed up for registration and were subsequently dubbed “charter members”. The FAA Administrator, Langhorne Bond and his wife were invited along with other FAA dignitaries. The Administrator and his wife came and both spoke. Sue was elected the first President, Jacque the first Vice President, Gwen Sawyer the first Secretary, and Barbara Williams the first Treasurer. Three women were elected Regional Directors for the entire United States- Margaret Hoffman, Pat Jones and Judi Terrana. Joyce McIlrath acted as MC. Membership cards were issued- Sue received membership number 79001CV; Jacque’s number was 79002CV, etc. They all received a certificate of membership. They then adopted a Creed, Constitution and By-Laws. A contest was held to name the newsletter and Sue won with Women’s Air Traffic Control Hotsheet – The WATCH! They toured the FAA Headquarters and some other areas and had a wonderful time. They wore long gowns for the banquet and of course professional attire during the rest of the week.

PWC was born and was formally announced in the FAA Intercom in May 1979. In June, Sue met with ATCA to request guidance concerning the new organization. They also received some legal advice from the ATCA attorney. In July, Sue began searching for an attorney to legally set up PWC and get incorporation started. Judi Terrana was the one who told Sue about an attorney, Arlene Feldman, who was working for the NJ DOT and was setting up 99 Chapters throughout the United States. So, Sue gave Arlene a call, met with her in Philadelphia and outlined the needs of PWC. Arlene agreed to set up the organization which was of course coordinated with the PWC Board of Directors. On July 26, 1979, Sue, now the President of PWC, requested that PWC be allowed to join ATPAC. She later went on to serve as the representative on ATPAC.

The First WATCH, Volume 1 – Number 1, was printed and distributed the summer of 1979. The Second WATCH, Volume 1 – Number 2, was issued in the fall of 1979.

The 2nd Conference was held April 7-11, 1980 in San Francisco, California. On May 5, 1980, the Director of Personnel and Training, FAA Headquarters notified Sue that they received the Articles of Incorporation for PWC. In June, several members of PWC met at FAA Headquarters to receive formal recognition from the FAA.

On September 2, 1980, Sue received a letter from Arlene Feldman notifying PWC of their tax-exempt status and incorporation in the State of Delaware. On October 14, 1980, the FAA issued a letter of Interface between FAA and Professional Women Controllers, Inc.

The 3rd Conference was held in Houston, Texas, in April 1981. The organization has been encouraging women to enter the air traffic control profession and assisting in professional and personal development ever since. PWC has been a venue for promoting a better understanding, cooperation and coordination among individuals toward the continual improvement of aviation safety.

When PWC was founded in 1979, legally setting up the organization and becoming incorporated required the services of an attorney. Our founders reached out to private pilot, Arlene Feldman, who was working for the New Jersey Division of Aeronautics and active in the 99’s Organization. Arlene was so supportive of PWC, that she donated her services in 1979 as our legal adviser. PWC recognized Arlene’s early efforts by conferring on her the organization’s first Honorary membership.