Apr 27, 2023

On Jan. 9 and 10, 2023, the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA) held their Winter Warm-up Expo in Palm Springs. NGPA is an organization that promotes inclusivity and diversity in aviation, particularly for queer and gender-queer people. The Winter Warm-up Expo featured a multitude of companies and organizations who share a love for aviation and diversity in the field.

One of these companies was Abingdon Co., a watch brand founded by pilot and business woman Abingdon Mullin. Horizons spoke with Mullin to hear her thoughts on this year’s NGPA Winter Warm-Up expo, as well as her career, mission, and perspective on the growing diversity in aviation.  

Q: Why aviation? What drew you to your field? Could you speak on your career and experiences in aviation? 

A: I have always had a spirit for adventure and excitement, especially when it has to do with flying, but I was 14 years old when I decided this was something I wanted to do. My high school would host these career lunches, where professionals from different industries would come in and speak to students. Honestly, I would go for the free lunches. One day, two pilots from Burbank Flight School came in to present. They said two things that changed every perception I had about aviation: 

1. You don’t have to join the military to fly

2. You don’t have to work for a major airline after you know how to fly. After hearing that, I was sold and went on to earn my private pilot certificate at 22 years old. To date, I have logged over 4,000 hours in over 80 different aircraft from a Piper Cub on Floats to the Airbus A320.  

Q: What is Abingdon Co.? 

A: Abingdon Co. builds watches for women who do more. What makes Abingdon Co. unique is that we are a watch brand designed for adventurers. They’re designed with purpose and meaning, so our customers – who we call “Crew Members,” can climb, drive, ride, and discover. 

Q: How and why did you create Abingdon Co.? What is your mission? 

A:  In 2006, Abingdon Co. began during a roundtable dinner conversation between a mix of energetic women pilots and mechanics. I listened as my colleagues repeatedly expressed their desires for a fully functional aviator’s watch. A watch that is fashionable, versatile and, most importantly, made for women. In that moment, I decided to form a company dedicated to developing purpose-built watches for women. Watches that meet the needs of female pilots, mechanics, and adventurous women all over the world. That kickoff conversation wasn’t just the moment the Abingdon Watch was actualized – it was the birth of the company ethos. I regularly meet with women in industries with active lifestyles. Together, we leverage their expertise and knowledge to create innovative products that meet their professional and personal needs. As an unintended result – Abingdon Watches themselves have become a symbol of empowerment. 

Q: How does Abingdon Co. relate to the National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA)? What are your common denominators? Do you collaborate? 

A: I’ve been a member of the NGPA for the last 5 years. We share in our mission to make the industry more inclusive and to build a strong community of allies that can support one another along the way. In 2020, The Abingdon Co. partnered with NGPA to design and build their 30 year anniversary watch. It’s still one of my proudest moments as a founder because it felt like such a significant way to celebrate their milestone. A watch is something we typically wear everyday and so it serves as a constant reminder that you’re part of a team, a family. 

Q: What is the NGPA Winter Warm-up expo? Who attends? What does it seek to provide? 

A: The NGPA is the largest international organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender aviation professionals and enthusiasts that works diligently to provide support and unite the LGBTQ community. The organization hosts several events throughout the year, including the West Coast flagship Winter Warm-Up expo in Palm Springs which I attended this past weekend. This is an organization and event that welcomes everyone – whether you’re a part of the LGBTQ community or an ally. The Winter Warm-Up is full of entertainment, opportunity and camaraderie. From inspirational speakers to job interviews with legacy airlines to drag queen brunches, the Palm Springs expo has something for everyone. If you’re not having fun, come find me and I’ll help you out because it’s impossible to not have a great time at an NGPA event.  

Q: Could you tell me about this year’s Winter Warm-up expo?

A: This was the first year the Winter Warm-up expo was held at the Palm Beach Convention Center, so it was definitely the largest it’s ever been. There were three full-days of events with different keynote speakers, breakout sessions, hiring sessions, meet and greets, the Battle of the Skies drag brunch, and a beautiful gala. Some of the notable speakers included: Former Astronaut Marsha Ivins, Retired Major General from the United States Air Force Brian Bishop, and Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Alex Wagner. 

Q: What was one of the most interesting booths/activities/take-aways you found at this year’s expo? 

A: This year was especially exciting as it was the biggest conference that the organization has hosted thus far. The weather was impeccable (as it always is in Palm Springs in February) and the itinerary was packaged with different opportunities to socialize and get involved. It was a great opportunity to get a pulse on where the industry stands including any programs that major airlines are rolling out for prospective pilots and flight school students.  

Q: How can Embry Riddle Prescott Students get involved in aviation diversity, NGPA, or attend future expos? 

A: There are various opportunities for Embry Riddle Prescott Students to get involved. NGPA offers a student membership for just $20 a year. You can learn more about Student Membership here: []. You can also volunteer! They are always looking to involve all corners of the aviation community so start by offering a helping hand. They have several committees that you can be a part of.  There’s also multiple scholarship opportunities students can apply for. You can learn more about those here: {]. 

Q: Tell me about the diversity issues in aviation, is there progress being made? How did you persevere? 

A: When it comes to diversity issues in aviation, we have to remember that this is an industry that historically has been dominated by straight white men. The positive thing is that progress is being made daily. There are programs now that guarantee that over 50 percent of a pilot class will include people of color, individuals from the LGBTQ community and women – ultimately bringing diversity into the classrooms.  

Q: What are your goals or plans for the near future? What’s next? 

A: We’re continuously striving to grow our ‘crew’ of women and provide them with tools and resources to make history. Additionally, we’re looking to collaborate with like-minded organizations to unify women with active lifestyles together.  

Q: What advice/resources do you have for gender minorities in aviation, and other male-dominated fields? 

A: Whenever I’m looking to get involved in a new community or industry, the first thing I do is Google specific minority groups within that industry. The internet is an incredible tool that we all have at our disposal and it can be used for good! 

There are several gender-based organizations that are doing incredible work in the aviation space alongside NGPA including: Abingdon Foundation, Women in Aviation, International Aviation Womens Association, The Ninety-Nines, The International Society of Women Airline Pilots, Women in Corporate Aviation, Sisters in the Skies, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Association of Women in Aviation Maintenance, Women Military Aviators, Female Aviators Sticking Together, and Lady Aviators. 

Q: Is there anything else you would to include? 

A: Another project of mine that I am extremely proud of is the Abingdon Foundation which strives to influence, encourage, and embolden women in their pursuits of extraordinary lives through sponsorships, community outreach, and networking opportunities. Since 2018, the foundation has been awarding full-paid trips to women to industry events across the country. The goal is to foster connections and continue to build a community of women who are transforming the world. The foundation oversees the ‘It’s About Time’ scholarship that awards a full-paid trip to a STEAM industry conference to a woman 18+ years, providing her with the opportunity to connect with key people in the industry and share their experiences.   

Lastly, in addition to our website, The Abingdon Co. watches are available at select retailers, including [] as well as through the AAFESArmy/Air Force Exchange and the U.S. Navy Exchange Service Command Enterprise stores and website. One day soon, I hope to build an Embry-Riddle watch for students and graduates.  

Originally Published in Horizons Newspaper.