Las Vegas Resident Chelsea ‘Abingdon’ Welch Is Breaking Stereotypes Every Day!

By Nicole Muj

Las Vegas resident Chelsea Abingdon Welch is a professional pilot and founder of The Abingdon Co. The 34 year-old, known simply as Abingdon, was born in Leeds, England to a British father and Mexican mother, once served in the Peace Corps and is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego in Cameroon, Africa with a degree in psychology and film.

The name Abingdon comes from the pub in England where her parents worked while her mother was pregnant. She first discovered that it was possible to have a career as a pilot at age 14, even though nobody in her family flew aircraft. At 22, she went to the Santa Monica airport and took her first flight lesson and received her private pilot’s rating in only 34 days.​ Fast forward 11 years since earning her pilot’s license, she has flown over 80 different models of planes in 20 countries.

The idea for The Abingdon Co. came about during a holiday dinner in California with a group of female pilots and airplane mechanics known as the 99s, the oldest group of female aviators founded by Amelia Earhart. At the dinner, the women expressed their need for a fully functional aviator’s watch that is fashionable, versatile and designed with a woman in mind. The meeting inspired Abingdon to launch the first ever company dedicated to developing top quality, affordable watches to meet the needs of female pilots, mechanics and adventurous women all over the globe. The Abingdon Co. took flight in November 2007.

The Abingdon Co. features a unique collection of watches that cater to today’s traveler. The quality timepieces feature genuine leather, surgical-grade stainless steel, Japanese motion technology and Swiss manufacturing. Every Abingdon watch has a hardened scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and date box, glow in the dark hands and hour markings and a unique inner rotating bezel. Multiple time zones, currency and international conversions and flight calculators that can even do multiplication and division on the dial are what set these timepieces apart.

To show her commitment to empowering women, Abingdon created the It’s About Time Scholarship awarded annually to women 18 years of age and older. Each year, a young woman is invited to attend and participate in a major industry conference, allowing her to experience all the different avenues available in aviation.

I caught up with her to find out more about this amazing woman.

What is Abingdon’s philosophy or plan for the future in her career and the watch company?

I work every day to build Abingdon watches to be Chanel timepieces meet Swiss Army knives. Last year, during our 10 year anniversary, I launched the Abingdon Foundation, my non-profit that’s mission is to introduce women to STEAM fields that are male dominated. I am passionate about women realizing their dreams and being able to think outside the box. I am also expanding the company and hiring people now to work at my Las Vegas headquarters. ​

Why are women in aviation so important?

​ The aviation industry is growing exponentially, yet careers in aviation such as becoming a pilot or an air traffic controller are not keeping up. The industry continues to market to the same kind of people that they have now (i.e. white males) and are not reaching out to other groups, such as women or minorities, including female minorities. With the growth of the industry, it is imperative for women to start pursuing aviation as a career in order for the industry to maintain growth. You can be a pilot, air traffic controller, dispatcher, scheduler, maintenance technician, baggage handler or flight attendant. The possibilities are amazing and the jobs are exciting!

Did Abingdon experience any obstacles in her quest to become a pilot?

​At the beginning and even now, I am often mistaken for a flight attendant or a non-flyer. When I fly with any of my male friends who are not pilots, the airport personnel often deal with my male friend, falsely assuming that he is the pilot. I’m breaking stereotypes every day.

How long have you made Las Vegas your home?

Six years.

What do you like most about living in Las Vegas?

​ The food!​ My favorite restaurants are Carson Kitchen downton, Simply Pure at the Container Park, Michael Mina at Bellagio (my friend, Ben Spicer is the lead sommelier and has the most amazing suggestions for pairings), and I love eating and dancing at Hakkasan, both the restaurant and the club.

 

What are your main career and personal goals for 2018?

​My main career goal is to establish all aspects of the company in Las Vegas, including fulfillment, customer service and retail account management. Personally, I’ve been taking up target shooting and Krav Maga and want to develop these skills. I also hope to fly four new types of airplanes and travel to four countries to where I have never been.

Do you have any new plans with your company?  

​ This year, we are developing three more watches for the tactical, dive, and racing industries. ​

​We’re also working on a smart watch.​ The company is looking to move to a larger facility that can accommodate the company expansion and the new foundation. Any interested investors are advised to contact The Abingdon Co.

Can you tell me more about your scholarship program and any specific success stories?

​Since 2012, The Abingdon Co. has been offering a scholarship to women from all over the world from Ghana to Dominican Republic to Ireland. and all over the United States. We decided to expand the program by dedicating a new non-profit foundation that will increase the program to offer three scholarships in 2018 and we aim to double the amount of scholarships each year until our goal of 50 scholarships is realized. Our first scholarship winner for 2018 will be announced the week of the Heli Expo in Las Vegas on Feb. 26. The winner will be flown into Las Vegas, provided accommodations and guidance throughout the week to expose her to the helicopter industry.

Any other news you might wish to share?

​We will be at the Academy Awards pre-events in February, in particular at Doris Bergman’s annual Valentine’s Oscar Lounge! We’re also hiring in Las Vegas for customer service agents and fulfillment processors. Contact The Abingdon Co. if interested.

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Photos courtesy of The Abingdon Co.

 

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