To help mark the historic occasion, Wingfoot Two Senior Pilot Taylor Deen, one of just three female blimp pilots in the world, delivered the champagne bottle Waiz used in the ceremony. The moment served as a reminder that when it comes to aviation and other STEM-related careers, you can find inspiration just about anywhere.
Even the blimp itself can be that inspiration.
"Its power is not really in that it is an ambassador for our brand, but that it is a unifier for our communities," Mr. Kramer said. "Whenever it travels, the blimp always attracts huge crowds of people of all ages and all walks of life who marvel at its combination of science and beauty. That was as true when the first blimp was launched more than 100 years ago as it is today."
When Wingfoot Three took to the skies, Ms. Waiz was there, helping guide the airship toward the clouds from right behind the control panel.
"I did get to fly it," Ms. Waiz said later. "To be blunt: I was not that great at it. I had thought, 'It's a blimp. How much different could it be?'"
It was, Ms. Waiz said, very different. Admittedly, she had trouble keeping the airship's altitude, but Ms. Deen and Chief Pilot Jerry Hissem were there to help.
What struck Ms. Waiz most about the maiden flight, though, was how serene and peaceful it was among the clouds.
"What I loved about it was that you were going just slow enough to look out the window and really appreciate what aviation is all about," Ms. Waiz said. "Being up there (with) that incredible view, looking out of over Ohio, it was the perfect way wrap up the day, with a calm flight."
That view from the gondola is a rare and revealing one.
"Since 1917, the blimps' vision has been about what discoveries are just over the horizon," Mr. Kramer said. "New discoveries and a vision beyond the horizon is what (Ms. Waiz) embodies as well."
A year after completing her solo flight around the globe, Ms. Waiz continues not only to inspire students around the world to pursue aviation and other STEM-related careers, but she also is working to empower them. As founder of Dreams Soar Inc., she is dedicated to encouraging young women to consider careers in aviation, then gives their goals the backing they need to soar.