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Female pilots share stories at National Air and Space Museum

Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal answers questions about being a U-2 pilot during the annual Women in Aviation and Space Family Day at the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., March 13, 2010. Airmen had the chance to talk to young girls about being female aviators. Colonel Tengesdal is the Detachment 2 commander for flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal answers questions about being a U-2 pilot during the annual Women in Aviation and Space Family Day at the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., March 13, 2010. Airmen had the chance to talk to young girls about being female aviators. Colonel Tengesdal is the Detachment 2 commander for flight testing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

CHANTILLY, Va. (AFNS) -- The staff at the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center hosted their annual Women in Aviation and Space Family Day March 13 where Airmen had to chance to talk to young girls about being a female pilot.

For Lt. Col. Merryl Tengesdal, it was "an opportunity to show the young ladies that they're not limited in their dreams."

"The opportunities are endless and you can do whatever you set your sights on," the colonel said.

Colonel Tengesdal, a U-2 pilot, is the Detachment 2 commander for flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. She was one of a handful of female Airmen invited to the museum to share her stories at one of the center's "Ask the Experts" panels.

Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski was another Airman invited to speak at the family day. She shared many of her experiences with the crowds as the first female to fly with the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron.  She also spoke about the recent Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring the Women Airforce Service Pilots.

"The WASP are my heroes and still inspire me," Colonel Malachowski said to the crowd of mostly young girls. "After learning their story and hearing about what they went through, I know now there's nothing we can't do."

According to Gloria Fulwood, the Hazy Center family programs manager, having Airmen participate in events like this is a great way for people to connect with the military.

"It's important to see the faces behind the airplanes," Mrs. Fulwood said. "It's an amazing experience for our guests to meet them face to face. We need them to be mentors to the young girls."

Eight-year-old Reanna Smith agreed.

"I liked getting to ask them questions," she said of the Airmen who volunteered at the center. "They told us all about what the Air Force does. I definitely learned a lot from them."

Erica Tiffany, who was there with her Girl Scout troop, said she would love to learn to fly. After seeing female pilots, she has a better understanding of what she has to do to make that dream come true.

"I need to do (well) in math and science," Erica, age 7, said. "I want to learn how to fly helicopters; I think that would be lots of fun!"

The Udvar-Hazy Center staff hosts family days throughout the year. For more information about their events, visit www.nasm.si.edu/UdvarHazy.

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