Fly Like a Girl

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Fly Like a Girl Movie Poster Image
Inspiring documentary about pioneering women pilots.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 84 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Teaches viewers about various women pioneers in aviation, from Bessie Coleman and Amelia Earhart and the WASP unit in WWII to more contemporary pilots like Vernice Armour, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Patty Wagstaff, Shaesta Waiz, and more. Viewers will find out why the various women featured were so notable in their respective aviation fields. 

Positive Messages

Promotes courage and perseverance, even in the face of discrimination and sexism. Also promotes teamwork, since some of the aviators have to work with a crew in their helicopters, planes, and space shuttles.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The women in the documentary are all positive role models, as evidenced by the young girl featured in the film who knows about many of them and makes comments like "I'm not a princess, I'm a pilot," and "I don't do fairy tales, I do flight plans." Representation is robust and intersectional, with a variety of women featured, including Senator Tammy Duckworth, who is a Thai American and also a wounded veteran; Vernice Armour, who was the first Black female naval aviator in the Marine Corps; Shaesta Waiz, an Afghan refugee who was the youngest woman to fly solo around the world; and Bernice Haydu, who was a member of the WASP unit in WWII.

Violence & Scariness

Discussion of many WASP pilots who died, including one who was possibly killed as the result of a prank (someone dumping sugar instead of fuel in her plane), and dangerous wartime missions, including the event that left Sen. Duckworth a double amputee.

Sexy Stuff
Language

A couple of uses of words including "damn" and "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Fly Like a Girl is an inspiring documentary about historical and contemporary women pioneers in aviation. It includes interviews with a variety of notable, record-setting pilots and astronauts, as well as a young girl who dreams of being a pilot like her many heroes. Director Katie Wiatt weaves together in-depth interviews with various women in aviation, from a 90-plus-year-old veteran of WWII's Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) to elite pilots trained in the Marine Corps, NASA, and aerobatics. There's discussion of pilot deaths and dangerous wartime missions and a couple of uses of "damn" and "hell," but iffy content is minimal. Families can talk about what they learn about these extraordinary women and what they've accomplished in the field of aviation, as well as the movie's themes of courage, perseverance, and teamwork.

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What's the story?

FLY LIKE A GIRL begins by spotlighting a young girl who dreams of becoming a pilot, even attending a charter school that offers flight simulation. Playing off the girl's interest in women in aviation, the film provides interviews with such pioneering pilots and astronauts as Shaesta Waiz, the youngest woman to fly solo around the world; Sen. Tammy Duckworth; Capt. Venice Armour, the first Black female naval aviator in the Marine Corps (and the first Black female combat pilot in the U.S. Armed Forces); Patty Wagstaff, the first woman to become a U.S. national aerobatic champion; Nicole Stott, a flight engineer and NASA astronaut who went to space on the Expedition crew; and 90-something Bernice Falk Haydu, a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) in World War II who had to wait more than 60 years to get her wings from the government for her service. Directed by Katie Wiatt, the movie is a tribute to and chronicle of what these women have accomplished in a male-dominated field.

Is it any good?

This insightful, inspiring documentary showcases women aviators who've proven time and time again that flying isn't just for boys and men. By framing the film around young Florida girl Afton Kinkade, an aspiring aviator, Fly Like a Girl is able to show how it's not just the very earliest women pilots who made history. Even in the 1990s and 2000s, women were still breaking barriers, fighting in combat, earning medals and winning competitions for the first time. All of the women interviewed have fascinating stories. Armour, whose nickname in the Marines apparently was "Fly Girl," is particularly compelling while telling the harrowing story of a mission. Nonagenarian Haydu is fascinating and her story educational: Even many adults likely haven't heard of the WASP initiative and how its pilots were deprived of their full military standing for decades.

Perhaps the only quibble is that with so many women to feature, viewers might wish they had more time to delve into their individual stories, rather than getting snapshots of each one. It's difficult not to want to immediately look up their backgrounds and accomplishments. Wagstaff's incredible aerobatics, Stott's space walk, Duckworth's disciplined service, and Waiz' around-the-world trip are all worthy of fuller investigation. At least Fly Like a Girl shares their names and outstanding achievements with a broad audience. All of them are aware of -- and, in some cases, have experienced -- systemic and personal sexism and discrimination against their abilities. But they persisted, and now Kinkade, like all girls her age, has so many more role models than the generations who came before her.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Fly Like a Girl depicts the obstacles and sexism the women aviators overcame to fly. Why do you think it's important to continue to discuss what women have accomplished in fields traditionally dominated by men?

  • How are these various aviators role models? What character strengths do they display? Why are courageperseverance, and teamwork important in a pilot?

  • Discuss the intersectionality expressed by women such as Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Shaesta Waiz, and Capt. Vernice Armour. Why is it vital to acknowledge the women's race, ethnicity, disability and even immigration status when discussing their achievements? What extra challenges did they face due to their identity?

  • What did the documentary teach you about the history of women in aviation, wartime history, and NASA?

Movie details

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