Posted on September 8, 2017 at 2:34 PM
Meet Miss Vermont: Pilot who flew herself to the pageant
By Amy Kuperinsky
Erin Connor looks you straight in the eye, with a firm handshake and an unwavering focus. It’s not hard to believe that this is the woman who flew herself to Atlantic City for the 2018 Miss America pageant.
Connor, 22, and two passengers made the 350-mile flight from Burlington, Vermont to Atlantic County on August 27 in a Piper Arrow plane.
“Being able to fly myself there was starting off this journey in the most incredible way,” Connor, a licensed pilot, tells NJ Advance Media. Flying along the Hudson River past the Statue of Liberty made the flight all the more epic, she says.
Connor, who majored in communications at the University of Vermont and wants to work as a commercial pilot, is one of 51 contestants vying for the crown this week in Atlantic City. Miss Vermont has never made it to the top 15 contestants at the Miss America pageant, Connor says, but she’s gunning to be the first.
“I may be a small-town farm girl from Vermont, but I can relate to someone from Los Angeles, California, or someone from Florida, or someone from Iowa,” she says. “I’m very personable and relatable and you need someone like that who can go out and feel comfortable talking to anyone, because that’s what Miss America’s about, right? Empowering women and being able to relate to people.”
The pilot, who hails from Bridport, Vermont and currently works as a sales coordinator for a hotel group, was the youngest woman to enroll at her aviation school when she was 16, and made her first solo cross-country flight when she was 17. When she enrolled in an aviation program at Vermont Technical College in 2013, she was afraid of heights.
“I kind of conquered my fear there,” she says. Connor received an extra boost of inspiration from her grandfather, who served as a pilot during World War II.
Her pageant platform encourages women to pursue careers in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — by way of Tailwinds, a program she created that incorporates flight camp and aviation lessons for teens. The focus on STEM is one that pageant contestants have come to embrace in recent years.
“I realized how underrepresented women are in the field, specifically aviation and engineering,” Connor says. During the pageant’s onstage question portion on Wednesday at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, she told the audience that of 130,000 pilots worldwide, only about 4,000 are female.
“We’re missing a lot of the world’s perspective in the STEM field,” Connor says, hoping to push for change on a national level. “Women and men have different fundamental ways of thinking, so I think just in that fact alone, we’d see amazing results here happen in science and technology and research and engineering.”
“She believed she could, so she did.” Y’all I just landed in Atlantic City, NJ. [?] I am living my platform and showing young women everywhere that they too can follow their dreams. [?] [?] The weather was absolutely gorgeous on my flight down. [?]We were able to fly along the Hudson River and fly right past the Statue of Liberty. [?] I love being a pilot and being able to wear my Grandfathers WWII jacket was an honor. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family, friends, and @maoteenvt. Thank you for supporting me! carolinebright came to watch me land. You’re awesome. I love you all! All in all, I am ready to rock the #missamerica competition with my big smile, crooked ray bans, and spray tan. [?] [?] [?] [?] #aviationgirl #missvt2017 #votevermont #missvermont #tailwinds4thewin