About us

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WG#1736 Jen Mulkern Whirly-Girl
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WG#13 Jean Ross Howard Phelan one of 13 founders of Whirly-Girls International

Who are the Whirly-Girls?

Whirly-Girls International is a nonprofit, educational and charitable organization dedicated to advancing women in helicopter aviation.

The Whirly-Girls Scholarship Fund, Inc., was incorporated in 1974 to oversee and administer the scholarship funds raised by the Whirly-Girls and their supporters. The Fund is a federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity. The Fund administers many separate scholarships valued, in some recent years, at more than $175,000 USD.

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Jean Ross Howard Phelan, Whirly-Girl #13, founded Whirly-Girls International in 1955. With the hopes of developing an organization where female pilots could share their experiences, information and find camaraderie, she and 12 other charter members representing women helicopter pilots from France, Germany and the United States, created this organization.

As of 2017, there are more than 1,930 members representing 47 countries. The Whirly-Girls is an affiliate member of Helicopter Association International and holds its annual conference at HAI’s HELI-EXPO, the largest helicopter trade show in the world, usually held annually in the first week of March.

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Organizational Goals

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Career Advancement

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Networking and Camaraderie

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Education and Outreach

Why Join Us?

Scholarships, job postings, mentoring opportunities, youth outreach, and more!

Become a Whirly-Girl
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Origin of the Whirly-Girls Logo

In the early 1950s, the U. S. Аrmy used an innovative way to recruit needed pilots: they created a Helicopter Square Dance Team. Operating 4 Bell 47s (what the army called H-13s), 2 helicopters were dressed (read: painted) as boys—wearing straw hats with pipes in their painted-on mouths—and two were painted like girls—with blond wigs, using dyed floor mops, and faces like Betty Boop (for those of you old enough to remember that cartoon favorite).

The windshields looked like faces, with painted oil cloths taped inside the bubble. The skirts covering the skids were made of target practice cloth. With a caller on the mic and the band playing “Turkey In The Straw,” the helicopter team would perform fast dance maneuvers with the rotors whirling: “Ladies Do-Si-Do,” “Allemande Left.” Air show crowds and TV audiences watched with fascination. See Dancing Helicopter Models.

When charter member WG#9 Marilyn Riviere and I first saw the helicopter dance team in action, we instantly agreed to adopt the lady helicopter as the Whirly-Girls logo. Next, we trademarked the logo so we could use it on items to sell for our Scholarship Fund. The rest is history.

Speaking of history, Ned Gilliand (Harry E. Gilliand), one of the former helicopter girl square dancer pilots, and later captain of the U.S. Team at the third World Helicopter Championships, published a piece titled “Dancing Rotors,” in which he identifies our logo!

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