Flying is in my blood. My father was a Navy pilot and retired as a commercial pilot from FedEx. My love of flying actually came from my Uncle Robert. He was a general aviation pilot. He would take me flying in his Chipmunk at our local municipal airport when I was young. He is an aerobatic pilot who has always enjoyed demonstrating rolls and loops with me in the backseat as his “co-pilot,” while I squealed with delight! I learned early on that piloting a plane is a unique experience that few get to experience. Earning my own pilots license was on my bucket list for over 30 years.
At age 42, the time had finally arrived for me to take the leap to begin my training for my Private Pilots License. Personal problems and growing children led me to the conclusion that my dreams should not wait any longer. On the day of my first lesson at Sporty’s Academy, a flight school near Cincinnati, I was extremely nervous and intimidated. There were many doubts and I almost turned around to get back in my car before entering the building. My instructor was a handsome man who had a friendly smile. Thank goodness! He put me at ease very quickly. As we launched into the sky during my first introductory flight, I couldn’t keep myself from smiling. My instructor, let me take the controls and fly the airplane as we were climbing away from the runway. The feeling of freedom and control he gave me was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.
As we were soaring around the surrounding rising, gray clouds, my new instructor announced we would be landing at a nearby local airport to wait out some weather. Deciphering the dangers of weather for a little plane was completely foreign to me at this point. From the calmness on my instructor’s face, there was nothing to fear at all. Looking back, if faced with the same weather conditions today, I would be a little panicked. No doubt! We were stranded at a deserted airport for at least half an hour, seeking shelter in a dirty, bug-ridden office. Our temporary detour was soon over and we would return to Sporty’s shortly thereafter, unscathed. Did the frightening weather scare me away? No way! I walked away after setting my next lesson with a smile on my face and the confidence of a champion.
There are many times I realize that the first lesson set the tone for the rest of my training. The encouragement, personality, and attitude of that instructor set me up for success from the beginning.
Because of my life-changing experience of becoming a pilot, my mission is to encourage other women to pursue aviation. The boost in confidence is immeasurable and the satisfaction of joining such an elite group of individuals is extraordinary. Aviation can be intimidating for women because they are the minority.
Soon after my training began, I knew my mission was to encourage other women to follow their dreams and pursue aviation. flyGIRL does this in three ways. First, the flyGIRL brand was developed and it is now used on clothing and other items, for women who enjoy aviation either as a pilot or co-pilot. You can purchase items at www.Sportys.com or www.flygirlllc.com. Secondly, flyGIRL offers scholarship money for women interested in pursuing aviation, as either a career or hobby. The flyGIRL sales proceeds directly fund the scholarships. The scholarship is used to provide that extra nudge to women interested in flying and to help eliminate some of the financial burden of training. Since beginning two years ago, flyGIRL has awarded $7,500 worth of scholarship money! Lastly, building a community of supporters through social media has been key. Inspiring others with my story and journey means the world to me. And I’m encouraged by others I’ve been connected with through all of the social media avenues. We all need one another to get through the challenges we face.
The lessons learned by me during my training cannot be overstated. My hope is that more and more women will allow themselves the challenge and joy of navigating the skies too!