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Muhammad Ali Airport director pioneering aviation for women

Women make up about 30% of the aviation industry. That does not include pilots, where women only make up about 8%. Louisville's own Megan Thoben aims to change that.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Megan Thoben is Kentuckiana Proud. “I’m honestly most proud that I made it home,” she said. “I’m really proud of our city and our airport.” 

Thoben is the Director of Operations and Business Development for Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, she manages everything from runway operations to airport communication systems. She’s also helping to lead the airport’s 400 million dollar renovation project. 

Thoben said her love of aviation started with her father. 

“I was fortunately raised by amazing parents, including a dad who was very interested in flying,” she said. “My dad was a small business owner, and time with him was short because he had to work a ton. So, I felt like when he had that time to fly, it was a great opportunity for me to take advantage of time with him." 

Credit: Eric King

Thoben attended Mercy Academy in Louisville before graduating from Eastern Kentucky University’s Aviation program. 

According to Women in Aviation International, women make up about 30% of the aviation industry. That number does not include pilots, where women only make up about 8%.  

Recently, Thoben joined the airport’s Executive Director Dan Mann as a speaker at an International Aviation Conference in Paris, France, where she was a visible symbol of the growing presence of women in the aviation field. 

“When I’m going out on that international stage and I’m talking about what we’re doing here at the airport I’m also talking about our city,” she said “I’m talking about what we’re doing as a city that is tied to why we are growing, why we are pursuing what we’re pursuing, and how that is shaping our success.” 

While representation is important, Thoben is focused on spreading awareness about the amount of opportunities that exist in aviation, regardless of gender. 

She and the entire leadership team at the airport are conscious about being part of the effort to create a talent pipeline of future aviation professionals. 

“We are really trying to feed that pipeline of future airport leaders, not just future pilots or future mechanics, even at that education level here in Kentucky. We are making those connections,” she said.

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