Some things in life are worth waiting for and “Dublin 2021” definitely fit that bill!  Our trip to the Emerald Isle may have taken 3 years of planning, a lot of flexibility from both leadership and membership and making it most of the way through a global pandemic, but Dublin did not disappoint!  The International Society of Women Airline pilots took Ireland by storm and enjoyed every minute of it!! 

It was truly a joy for us as a Board to see our members enjoy each other’s company in person and especially, to see so many of our friends from outside of the United States. It had truly been way too long!!!  Reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones is what ISA+21 is all about and our time in Dublin once again showed us that with our growing membership, we really do have Friends All Over The World!   

The aviation industry has endured so much change and uncertainty since the early part of 2020, but one thing has remained constant and certain: the connection to amazing women that this organization brings to each and every one of us!  This is evident at every conference, but this one seems even more special as we have all been looking forward to being together in Dublin for 3 years!  It was absolutely fantastic to see you all again and to meet new members and make more new friendships.  I can’t wait to do it all over again in Anchorage! 

If you attended this year’s conference, please fill out and submit the post conference survey.  It is so important to the Board to get feedback about how we are doing. That is the best way for us to better serve you and to make each conference even better than the last! 

-Tara Traynor, President

As your new Membership Director, it is with great pleasure that I write to capture a summary of our pre-conference trip. I thoroughly enjoyed this very special time of my life – getting to know our fellow members during the various tours and spending quality time with one another to learn each other’s stories in deeper ways, made this trip one of the high points of the Dublin Conference.

Maggie, the Events Director, and the whole team at the BOD, wanted the Conference attendees to enjoy not only the sights and sounds of stunning Ireland but also, its new cuisine, whiskey tradition, history and culture. Oh, did they succeed!  It was such a fantastic time to be with our fellow members on the various tours, and engaging in spirited conversation. I know it may be cliché- but “…a good time was had by all!”

Day 1 of our pre-conference trip started with an early departure from the lovely Davenport hotel in central Dublin towards scenic Galway on the West coast. The bus ride took us through the beautiful green countryside, where the sheep would show up sometimes in pink, blue, green, or purple! Well, we learned that the paint on their backs was how farmers distinguish their herd.

Once in Galway, our large group of members and HALPS were separated into smaller groups, so that we could all enjoy, at nonconflicting times, the famous “Galway Food Tour”. The food tour was a delight. It was fascinating to have learned how Ireland is now a country that’s becoming known for its thriving cuisine, and how the many family-run food and beverage businesses are significantly contributing to the growth of Ireland’s economy. 

As we were tasting delicious, locally produced award-winning cheeses, we were also introduced to the differently aged types of Irish whiskeys and brandies. Our guide then took us on a stroll through the city center’s narrow streets for coffee tasting, perfectly matched with the delicious pastries at Truffles, all made with delicious Irish dairy.

As one group was on the Food Tasting Tour, the other one was exploring Galway City Center’s narrow roads filled with cafés, pubs, locally manufactured winter clothing shops, and the outdoor market offerings of Irish homemade food and artisans’ artifacts.

Before wrapping up our fun food-tasting tour with locally produced ice cream, we were mesmerized upon discovering 400 years of Irish/English history of battles and disputes, hidden within the floors, stones, and fireplace of Galway’s most famous pub, The King’s Head.   What kind of a name for a pub is that? Well, it is a very special and popular Medieval pub, mostly known for its live music, food, Irish whiskey bar, bistro, and beer label of its own.

And the pub’s intriguing name comes from its links to the Cromwell’s henchmen, the same ones who executed King Charles I. That’s right! The suspect is Colonel Peter Stubbers, who after performing the infamous act, left England with Cromwell’s Army and claimed his authority on Irish soil, right there in Galway. He captured the mayor’s marvelous house, one of Galway’s tallest and most prominent buildings, and turned it into Stubbers’ Castle, the home of the first English Mayor of Galway City, currently known as, The King’s Head Pub.

After such an exciting day, we relaxed for the evening, in preparation for our full day of exploration of the beautiful Irish countryside.

Day 2 was another early departure, this time from the Maldron Hotel in Galway to Kylemore Abbey, a beautiful 1,000-acre estate, originally home to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester, the Henry family. Since the beginning of WWI, it has been home to Benedictine nuns, who have settled here after the destruction of their Abbey, originally founded in 1675 in Ypres, Belgium. In 1923 they opened a Girls’ School and have been preserving the heritage and natural beauty of Kylemore ever since.

The nuns proudly live in the monastic rule of Saint Benedict, applying the principles of Pax (peace) and ‘Ora et labora’ (pray and work). They run a farm on the estate, where they grow vegetables and keep livestock, making them almost self-sufficient. We were fortunate enough to experience some of their locally sourced Irish dishes during lunch at the Kylemore restaurant. A visit to the gift shop was a special treat as we were able to take home some of their delicious products such as the Kylemore Abbey Chocolates, handmade by the Benecditine nuns, and their own Irish Country Cream.

The Kylemore Abbey visitor experience is really fascinating.  We visited not only the Abbey, and its captivating history, but also, the estate’s stunning 6-acre Victorian Walled Garden. It includes glasshouses, a Kitchen and a Flower Garden, and hundreds of thousands of exotic and native trees. Some of the plants and flowers were introduced to Ireland before 1901!

We could see how the decision to build the Garden on that location was definitely a very wise one. It is the brightest and warmest spot on the estate, where the natural fall of the land and underlying gravel allows for drainage and a mountain stream provides much needed water.

I am looking forward to going back, exploring the estate in a more relaxed moment in time. So much more wandering to do around the Gardens, the trails, spending a few more minutes with the Connemara ponies, praying in the Gothic Church – which unfortunately was closed at the time – and visiting the Mausoleum.

It is no wonder Kylemore Abbey has turned into such a successful non-profit, a full charity organization in Ireland.

It even holds some great accomplishments. To name a few, the Victorian Walled Garden, has received the Europa Nostra Award in 2001, and Kylemore Abbey is about to become the leader in sustainable tourism in the country!

I agree with the Benedictine nuns, the Kylemore Abbey, is not only “an awe inspiring and dramatic setting, surrounded by the stunning Connemara region”. It is also a place for much reflection, appreciation and growth.

From Kylemore Abbey we were taken on another scenic drive to visit the stunning Cliffs of Moher, some of the most beautiful sea cliffs in Ireland! It is said that their formation dates back 300 million years! The cliffs stand 700 feet above sea level and extend for about 9 miles. They are famously known as the “Crown Jewels” of Ireland’s emerald coast for their astounding heights and breathtaking views.

We weren’t at all surprised to find out that this gorgeous location has been chosen as an ideal backdrop for many Hollywood films. 

By this time, the sun was getting close to giving us that “golden hour” look, so we took as many pictures as we could, rushed back to the bus towards the hotel for some dinner and much needed sleep.

Day 3 was our departure from the “emerald coast”, back to Dublin, but not before our much awaited “Viking Mike River Cruise” experience over the River Shannon, starting in adorable Athlone, central Ireland.

We were dropped off from our bus at the town center where the famous medieval Athlone Castle is situated and a few steps from the dock where our “Viking” ship sails from.

While our skipper and commentator Michael was guiding us on some of the local history, we appreciated the views and wildlife. And as we sailed, a “bartender” was under the deck, taking care of the many requests for Irish Coffee – and its many versions.

We docked at the Hodson Bay Hotel’s pier and enjoyed some delicious food and were even presented with a few inspirational, improvised speeches.  What a great way to conclude our pre-conference Irish tour!

Back at the hotel, some of us met at the nearby pubs for a pint – or two…

My overall 10-day experience in Ireland has been very inspirational, and in many ways. The new friendships, the old ones, the camaraderie, the opportunities; so much to be thankful about.

Also, my daughter Caroline and I brought home reflections on the immense influence the Irish have had on America, and its heritage. Famous Americans such as John F. Kennedy, Henry Ford and Grace Kelly all have Irish roots and have influenced America’s culture. We could feel it as we walked through the streets, museums and in the beautiful Irish countryside.

We will forever cherish these memories.  Thank you ISA for such an inspirational impression!

-Kalina Milani

Tuesday morning started out on our own, with many members taking to the streets on self-guided tours to see the local sights, Registration opened at noon, the raffle tickets went like hotcakes, and the online auction was hopping. That evening the traditional welcome cocktail party was like a family reunion with Irish beverages flowing and ISA Members and HALPS dressed like movie stars in their “merriment attire”, who danced the night away. When the DJ packed up some moved the party to local pubs, but most retreated to get their rest for the annual conference highlights on Wednesday.

Bright and early, 105 ISA members flowed into the Business meeting, dressed in their finest airline pilot apparel to introduce themselves during the annual roll call. Among the attendees were four charter members, Karen Kahn, Jean Harper, Terry London Rinehart, and Beverley Bass. There were 21 airlines represented from 7  countries (Canada, Columbia, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, St. Lucia, and USA).  Thyra Blaom was recognized for traveling the furthest, from New Zealand. Lifetime members were saluted with a certificate of authenticity. Annual business moved smoothly concluding with a teaser about the 2023 ISA conference in Anchorage, AK, September 12-14. 

The entire ISA clan paraded 2 city blocks to the National Gallery of Ireland  for the official ISA photo shoot. It was an impressive contrail of female pilots in their uniforms as traffic stopped and horns were honked in support. One full group photo was followed by a dozen or more break out groups of individual airlines and special interest groups. The membership ranges from the 20-somethings to the 70-somebodies, with everyone in awe of each other’s accomplishments. Lunch flowed next, with 13 members inducted into the ISA Captain’s club by their ISA sponsor. Their stories are all unique and inspiring. We also heard from our fantastic lunch sponsor, Alex Tapia, President of Aviation Retirement Strategies.

Soon the buses were boarded for a night of entertainment at the Merry Ploughboy, awarded Ireland’s best pub traditional music, singing and dancing. The cast had the entire audience on their feet, holding hands, swaying and singing “My Bonnie lies over the ocean” before the night of lamb and Guiness was over. A few ISA members failed to keep the Irish rhythm and were welcomed on stage for a public admonishment. A good time was had by all. 

A guided walking tour of Dublin was offered on Thursday. Dozens of members and HALPs took to the streets in some of the only rain we experienced during the entire trip. It created a quaint backdrop for downtown streets, parks, cathedrals, gardens, distillery tour, castles and pubs. We also had a stop at the EPIC Emigration museum to learn of the rich history of the Irish, as well as a lunch stop at The history of Ireland was unraveled along the way. Thursday night was on our own to get packed up to head home, visit a few more pubs, or get ready to leave on the post conference side trip.

Friday morning arrived with more sunshine as about 50 conference attendees boarded a bus ride to Belfast and a tour of the Titanic Museum. The site is the exact location of the construction of the world’s largest and most luxurious passenger cruise ship starting in 1909. The tour covered all points from the laying of the keel beam through its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912. We learned of the modern conveniences, the lavish furnishings, delicious food, and interesting passengers from all walks of life. We all knew how the story ends and but enjoyed the state of the art tour. The afternoon was on our own and many elected to take a Black Cab tour learning the history of civil unrest in Belfast and Ireland, walking to the nearby botanical gardens, or resting for the group dinner at the Northern Whig Pub. Most of the members strolled the streets of downtown Belfast and enjoyed the architecture and beautiful flowers.
Saturday held all kinds of surprises. We traveled to the Old Castle Ward (Winterfell Castle) to partake of the Game of Thrones Experience. The group was split about 50/50 on those who had ever seen even one episode of the popular series, but the experience will stand alone in our minds. We were invited to don ancient robes to get us in the mindset for the activities. Everyone honed their skills of axe throwing and archery, some of our members were quite talented. A trip down memory lane to the location where many scenes were shot provided the backdrop for hundreds of photos in the brilliant sunshine. Our guides were all extremely proficient in their craft and not bad to look at. A Medieval Banquet followed that was fit for a king or 40+ beautiful queens. 
One thing was clear as we motored along the Irish countryside, that green is the color we will never forget. Fields so green they seemed lit up, and the sheep that had their back sides spray painted different colors to separate the flocks. The next stop was a total surprise to most of the attendees, a stop at the Giant’s Causeway. Some of us googled on the way there to find out we would see some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption on the northern coast of Ireland. It was a breathtakingly beautiful place to walk a couple miles, bask in the sunshine, and rock formations. The shoreline was magnificent, and it was so clear we could see Scotland across the Atlantic Ocean. 

Saturday evening was our opportunity to get organized for early departures home the next morning. Many friendships were renewed and lots of new ones were made. One thing everyone agreed on, was we ate too much good food and (possibly) drank too much Irish beer and wine. Ireland did not disappoint. In fact, many have unfinished business and hope to return to see more of the countryside. Until next year in Anchorage, so long dear ISA sisters. 

Terri Donner