Aviation and History Combine to Celebrate “Women in Flight”

Group of three female pilots with STEM teacher

Renbrook School recently honored the legacy of Frederick B. Rentschler, the pioneering spirit of women in aviation, and the modern-day accomplishments of female pilots across the globe with our annual Flight Day celebration. This year, we honored “Women in Flight.”

Frederick B. Rentschler

Frederick B. Rentschler, co-founder of Pratt & Whitney, and his family lived in the grand estate atop Avon Mountain on Albany Avenue which is now home to Renbrook School. Mrs. Faye Belden Rentschler owned the property and willed it to a non-profit that benefitted children. The Junior School, located elsewhere in West Hartford, was awarded use of the property in 1957 and renamed itself Renbrook School in recognition of the generous gift from the Rentschler family. “Ren” comes from Rentschler, and one must cross a rushing brook to enter the 75-acre property, thus becoming Renbrook School. What was once the address of a leading innovator, has been the home for “bringing learning to life” for children for more than 85 years.

Old photo of Rentschler Mansion

Frederick Rentschler, an aviation engineer and industrialist, was a beacon of innovation. He envisioned a lighter engine for increased power and eventually designed an air-cooled system. At that time, Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool Company of Hartford signed on to support the development of Rentschler’s vision and created Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company.

Rentschler’s Wasp engine (named by his wife, Faye) truly moved the industry forward. That same spirit of innovation and determination is a driving force in so much of what we do here at Renbrook. Our 2024 Flight Day celebration helped keep the story of Fredrick’s innovative spirit and the history of Renbrook School alive in our students’ minds.

Flight Day Comes Alive

Bessie Coleman, female African American pilot impersonator

The start of this year’s Flight Day featured a flyover that captivated the hearts of all. The presence of a Bessie Coleman reenactor brought history to life, reminding us of Coleman’s remarkable achievements as the first African American woman and the first Native American to hold a pilot license. Her story is a testament to the power of perseverance and courage in the face of adversity.

Renbrook parent presenting her books to Beginning School students

Renbrook parent and author, Saba Shahid shared her recent book about female pilots, My Mama is a Pilot, with Beginning School students. Other activities included flying kites, miniature airplanes, drones, and stomp rockets, which provided a hands-on experience of the principles of flight. Students engaged in Flight Trivia and STEM aviation activities. A highlight for many students was a presentation from a Flight Test Discipline Chief who honored early female aviators and a visit from three female ARMY helicopter pilots. These inspiring women are part of a proud tradition of female aviators, from Bessie Coleman to Amelia Earhart, who have shattered barriers and paved the way for future generations.

Women in Flight

The theme of “Women in Flight” was chosen to celebrate these trailblazers and to encourage our students, regardless of gender, to reach for the skies in their aspirations. It was a day of learning, inspiration, and joy, and we are grateful for the opportunity to inspire our students and instill the value of innovation based on the legacy of those who have soared before us. No doubt our students will dream big, work hard, and fly high.

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