It wasn't until I was a senior in high school that I even heard of a pilot as a possible career choice. And honestly, I stumbled upon it by accident. When I was in high school I decided to start taking college classes to try to graduate high school early with some college already under my belt. I needed one more class to fill up my schedule that semester, and the only class that really fit was an Intro to Aviation Science class. I wasn't entirely sure what it was, but it sounded interesting, so I registered for it.
On the first day of class the teacher went over the entire syllabus and told us what we could expect to learn that semester. He also told about his flying background. I was intrigued. You mean to tell me that people make a career out of becoming a pilot? It's not just something from the movies? That sounds awesome. As the class continued throughout the semester, I got more and more hooked. It was the first time in my life that I wanted to know more. Can women do this? Can I do it even though I don't have perfect vision (I've had Lasik since and it has been life changing)? Where can I go to school for this? Can I afford it? I've never even been on a plane, though, will I even like it?
I had tons of questions, so instead of just sitting back, I decided to find some answers. I began by researching out flight schools and found out the college I was attending in high school offered an aviation program and it was rated among the best- and better yet, it was much cheaper than the others at its level. I asked my aviation teacher if I could do it without having perfect vision, and he told me yes! As long as it was corrected by glasses, contacts, or Lasik. Things felt like they were falling into place for me. Then came the bigger question- are there women out there that do this? His answer again was yes! Though women weren't as common in this industry, they could in fact do it.
Now that all those questions were answered it was time to actually step foot on a plane to see if I would enjoy it. For my 18th birthday my parents bought me a round trip ticket on Frontier Airlines from SLC to DFW to visit my grandpa. Navigating an airport for the first time was a bit confusing, but I found my way through security and to the gate hours before my flight was to leave. I was so excited that the time seemed to draw on and on. After a century or so, the flight finally began boarding. I found my seat next to the cutest old lady and got settled in.
The flight attendants began their safety briefing and I was all ears... but how come nobody else seemed to be paying attention? I guess I'll be the only one that knows what to do in an emergency. And yes, I did read the entire safety briefing guide and knew exactly which emergency exit I would use if I needed to.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven when that plane began rolling down the runway... and when those wings finally developed enough lift to get that plane off the ground, it was the best feeling I'd ever experienced up to that point. It was incredible! This is what I was born to do; I knew if I could feel this every day for the rest of my life, I would be happy. I remember the flight being a bit bumpy out of SLC (when is it ever smooth flying out of that airport?), and the lady next to me white-knuckling the arm rest. What was she so nervous for? It was just a few bumps and we were flying through clouds, this was awesome, not scary. I was on an aviation high and I never wanted to come down.
When we made it to DFW (which felt like a 2 minute flight for me), my grandpa was there to pick me up. I had only met him one time before this, but I liked him instantly. He is an older version of my dad with the same silly sense of humor. He called Walmart 'Wally-World', and when we went there he let me pick out whatever I wanted to eat- what a treat!
My grandpa had gotten his pilot's license later on in his life, and he offered to take me up- not once, but twice! I was the luckiest girl in the world. The first time in the plane I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. He showed me how to do a preflight inspection, how to use the checklists, and then he even let me taxi for a bit. I was all over the place on the taxiway, but it was awesome. I knew I would get better at it.
The feeling I got when we first took flight in that little Cessna was one I will never forget. To see the ground get further and further away was incredible. We were flying through invisible air- life doesn't get more amazing than that. I thought my grandpa was trying to kill us when he showed me a stall, but his recovery was flawless, so I lived to tell. And the steep turns- I loved the steep turns; I felt like we were defying gravity.
I don't remember exactly what we did on each flight, but I remember that I had found my purpose in life- I was going to be a pilot! My time with my grandpa went by way too quickly; after a short few days I was on my way back home. But I had a purpose now, I had a passion, and I was going to do everything it took to get my pilot's license.
That was 18 years ago, and I am happy to say that since then I have earned my Private, Instrument, Commercial with Single and Multi-Engine privileges, my CFI, CFII, MEI, Gold Seal, Ground Instructor- Advanced and Instrument, and most recently, my ATP. As an airline pilot I have flown the EMB-120, CRJ, B757/767, and the A220. Being a pilot has been such a great career so far and I am excited to see what the future holds for me.
If you are thinking about becoming a pilot, research it out, find answers to your questions, and make sure it is what you want to do. If the answer is YES, then start doing something about it. Nobody can do it for you- you have to do it for yourself. But I am telling you that it will be worth it! Please let me know if you have any questions by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy flying!
If you would like to share your story on my blog to inspire future pilots, please let me know. I would love to share it. Email me at email@example.com if you have questions.