People ask me strange questions sometimes about being a pilot, flying airplanes and aviation, in general. Laughing at them would be frowned upon, so keeping a straight face has become my main objective. Most people are very interested, intrigued and encouraging. They may be a little jealous too.
There are many things people are concerned about when it comes to aviation training. For those opposed to piloting airplanes, the most common question is: “Why would you want to do that?!” Or their body language alleges “Let’s say our goodbyes now, because you’re obviously going to crash and die.” Thank you very much for the confidence. Aviation was a normal part of conversation for me growing up, so airplanes are nothing to be afraid of. It’s in my blood. Travel and adventure make life meaningful for me. Living my whole life with both feet on the ground in one place would be excruciating. Not everyone is like that and that’s okay.
It’s usually fairly easy to come up with a few “cons” to almost anything. Recently, I sat down and penned my own list of personal gripes about flight training.
The Misery: 1, 2, 3
1). No matter what time of year it is, it’s one temperature outside of my little plane and five minutes later there’s at least a 20 degree difference inside of my little plane.
If it’s summer time, I’m sweating my hiney off during the preflight. After climbing 3,000 feet into the air, where’s my freakin’ jacket?! What used to be sweat dripping down my back has now turned into some unidentifiable frozen substance. On the other hand, if it’s tundra season, my fingers are numb and my breath is visible outside while sumping fuel. Patience is required. In a matter of moments, once airborne, the planes heater will kick in. The sweating can be so bad, the window must be cracked open. And it’s below freezing…It’s one of those crazy contradictions that must be dealt with. Like mom says: layer, layer, layer.
2). There are no potty breaks. I can’t actually live in my little plane for very long (Waah!). My car has everything necessary to sustain life for a week, guaranteed. When the pantry is empty at my house, the kids actually start looking through my car because there are always snacks tucked away in there. A mother can’t hide anything of value from teenage boys for long! Grrrr. My vehicle stores blankets, tissue, hand sanitizer, toothpicks, a flashlight (which of course my plane has too!), reading material, bottled water, rope (you never know when you might need that), a confiscated iPod (or two), pens, paper, a football, knives, a stack of cards, etc., etc. All of that can’t be carried in my little plane! Two words: weight and balance.
3). The last beef is that there’s no excuse for purchasing nice, new, stylish clothes. There’s nothing more satisfying than lifting off the ground with a clean, new, white shirt, right? Except of course that it will be stained with oil, bug guts or sweat within 10 minutes (see paragraph 5 above). Pointless. Basically, you learn to be okay sporting “functional” apparel. You can’t really afford to waste your money on clothes that will be stained anyway (you’ve maxed your credit cards with AvGas) and your priority becomes maneuverability. I’m not talking about just steep turns either. Flying an airplane while reaching in the backseat for your battery pack takes flexibility. It’s almost like trying to clean your backseat toddler during those few split seconds at a stoplight.
Is It Really Worth It?
My grievances actually add up to a whole bunch of nothing. The heat, the cold, the lack of snacks or clean outfit would never deter me from enjoying my little cockpit each time I climb in for my next adventure. Whether my bladder is full, my stomach is growling or there’s sweat dripping down my back while my toes have lost feeling, it’s worth it. To me, that means everything.
My oldest son recently graduated from high school (See previous blog:”What Lies Ahead For This Female Pilot?”). He doesn’t fully know what this really means. Kids live in a bubble for the first 18 years of their lives. School has been his routine for most of his life. People have been telling him what to do: when school starts, when it ends, what to wear, what to study, etc., etc. Now, he has choices. Many choices. I’m not sure any child really understands how life changes after high school, until they live it. My son, Jack, has been chomping at the bit for freedom for a long time. Now he has it and he’s not sure what to do with it! I’ll admit, this is pretty entertaining to witness.
When it was time for me to choose a path after high school, it was confusing. My school choices were based on either where my friends were going or what location seemed the most exciting. There were a few different schools I actually “tried” out…My major changed at least three times.
Two Schools of Thought
It seems there are usually two schools of thought on career path choices usually offered to young adults.
Number 1: Find something safe and secure.
Number 2: Follow your dream.
Growing up, my family preached option 1. I’ve always been a dreamer, but finding security was consistently recommended. There was no malicious intent on their part. They just didn’t want me living in their basement indefinitely. Frankly, now that there are teenagers with attitude living in my home, it makes perfect sense. How my mother kept from actually burying me in our basement is a mystery. For years, being a professional musician was what I aspired to do (along with 5 million other Nashvillian’s). There have been a few opportunities for me to perform and each time has been memorable. Being a professional pilot seemed even more far-fetched than being a musical artist! Isn’t that nuts?!?!
My parental guidance philosophy is different. Option 2 is my approach. All of my children are males. Therefore, it’s relatively self-evident that they will be working to either support themselves or their families for a large amount of their lives. My hope is they pursue something they truly enjoy because they will likely be doing it a long time.
While raising these boys, it’s been my goal to help them find what they’re good at, what excites them, and to be their biggest cheerleader. Sometimes their interests have been non-traditional and challenging.
Counseling Advice For My Boys:
It’s taken me over 20 years to finally go after something I’ve wanted for a long time. Once a dreamer, always a dreamer!! My boys see me studying and are now cheering for me 😊.
It’s Never Too Late.
My hope is that young high school graduates (especially my Jack) have the courage to pursue what they love. If it takes them 20+ years, that’s still an achievement. Don’t let the daily routine of life kill your spirit. If you’re alive, and reading this, there’s still time.
This past week was busy and full of challenges. Maybe for you, as well. The excitement and work that has gone into the flyGIRL scholarship announcement came to a head at Sporty’s last Saturday. That was such an extraordinary afternoon for me. To help another young woman pursue her dream, filled me with a satisfaction never personally experienced.
My oldest son graduated from high school. He made it; he’s still alive! My house was full of family members visiting to witness his accomplishment. It’s surreal to watch this young man, that’s been under my wing, embark on a whole new chapter. He’s currently a little lost about what he wants to do with himself, understandably. His life will unfold in ways no one can predict.
Doing My Best
Probably the most stressful part of my week was preparing for my final stage check before my instrument rating training check ride is scheduled. This rating is a challenge! A good performance is extremely important to me. I really want to perform well during my oral exam, master all of the approaches and blow the examiner away. Eking by is unacceptable to me.
Finding enough time to study is always a challenge. It’s still fun for me to go over some of the things I’ve been learning since Day One. Each note card brings back a special memory from a flight or is a reminder of how far I’ve come in less than two years. I can remember when some of the concepts would finally “click” and make sense. When writing the note cards out at the beginning of my private pilot days, some of the FAR’s, definitions and/or descriptions were so overwhelming and foreign to me. Doubt would creep in that maybe I was in over my head. Many of those concepts had to be experienced before they were fully understood. My instructor can attest that my learning style requires hands-on repetition. Oh boy! If I could just read something and understand it…my aviation fuel bill would be at least half of what it is! Note to others: flight training will definitely cut into your wardrobe allowance. BOO!
What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?
Since beginning my aviation journey 21 months ago, I’ve proceeded through private pilot training, become an aircraft owner, flown across the U.S. and have logged over 400 hours. Hopefully, my instrument rating will be solidified in a few days. There are other ratings and many more hours of flying planned in my future. I am often asked: “What are your future plans in aviation?” Admittedly, this question leaves me feeling a little like my recent high school graduate son. Is it nuts to start forging a new path?
Trying to put into words what flying has done for me recently is extremely complex. There have been numerous rewarding experiences and exciting new friendships formed. I’ve introduced aviation and shared my experiences with various young ladies and children. There have been many new places explored by me in my little plane. All great things! This is the first time something has been so personally rewarding for me. It’s produced a confidence in myself never known. I’m very fortunate to be able to fly around and see new places in my own airplane. The sense of accomplishment felt after each landing is inexplicable.
It’s also been a challenge. My first flight, nearly two years ago, opened my eyes to new possibilities. Honestly, that’s been a real struggle for my family. Acknowledging that being a full-time mom for the past 18 years and raising a family hasn’t completely fulfilled me, has been an adjustment. My kids watch me studying instead of cleaning their rooms. Home made meals are a thing of the past (for the record, cooking has never been my thing). They do their own laundry (and not very well, I’ll add). It’s gotten real easy for me to say no to things that aren’t enjoyable. Some of these things I’ve been doing for years.
Balancing my dreams while living out commitments to my family is demanding. In some ways, life is easier when we stay the course and don’t open Pandora’s box. For me, it’s been more difficult to bury my curiosity for the unknown and new challenges. I want to build a new career for myself around aviation. At my age, it’s uncomfortable admitting that. Most people are supportive. My kids look at me with curiosity. They say “You’re a mom” Or “Aren’t you too old for that?” My reply: “Hell no!” OK. That’s a lie. Southern ladies don’t use profanity around their children (that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking it though).
What I Want Others to Know
What I’ve learned is that there doesn’t have to be an age limit on new interests or paths. Life is always evolving. Don’t put limits on yourself. I’m not sure what lies ahead for me. Currently, I’m just enjoying each new flight path. My life is still unfolding for me just as it is for my 18 year old son.
This past Saturday the first flyGIRL scholarship recipient was introduced. It was one of the most exciting days I’ve ever experienced. Giving is the ultimate high. Most people want to help others. Many of us feel that we can’t afford to. I have a “little sister” with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Ohio. As you could guess, her family is not wealthy. She rarely has more than $20 with her. Yet, if we see a homeless person, she always gives them something. No one would judge her if she walked by and said “I don’t have any extra money to give.” Most would probably agree. She has no relationship with this stranger and will probably never see them again. Yet, she is willing to share what she has.
Painless Household Donations
Hopefully, most people are willing to share some of what they have with people in need. Donating old, unused household items is pretty painless. De-cluttering and removing things from my house is fun for me. I’m the extreme opposite of a pack rat. My house could be featured on the fictional TV series: Does Anyone Live Here? If there’s an item taking up space that hasn’t been used in over 6 weeks, it’ll be removed and bagged for Goodwill in about 20 seconds flat. Clutter makes me squirm. The negative to this is if there is a time that I actually need that snowball maker, I’m screwed….
Donating Cold, Hard Cash
Writing a check for a charitable donation isn’t too difficult. Don’t get me wrong! No one enjoys giving their hard-earned money away. Clinging to your money as if it’s the key to happiness is a ridiculous waste of energy. No matter how much money you have, there will always be someone with more (my children have heard me say this numerous times). Don’t drive yourself nuts believing life would be perfect if you only had more money. The amount of problems you have won’t go away with more money. A lack of money may no longer be one of your problems but (spoiler alert) money can actually cause other problems. Well, that sucks. Instead, find some ways to use the money you do have to help an organization you believe in or people you believe in.
Am I drawn to the American National Cattlewomen Foundation? Negative. What about the local volunteer fire department? Absolutely! Even if filling out an actual check, addressing an actual envelope and locating an actual stamp (what do they cost now?) is torturous. It brings much more satisfaction to me then donating a $1 at the Target register ever will!
This may be the hardest. Time is impossible to recover. Yet, it is one of the best ways to truly make a difference. Knowing what you’re good at and what you enjoy is key. If you volunteer to do something that you don’t like, it will show and could have a negative impact on those you’re actually trying to help.
I’m against animal cruelty. Yet, I’m nervous around animals. There have been at least three instances in my life of threatening animal encounters. It would be laughable if it weren’t true: I’ve been chased by a herd of cattle, thrown off a horse (more than once), and attacked by a dog. Volunteering at an animal shelter is probably not the best place for me to be helpful. The animals would definitely smell fear in me. However, spending time with young kids and adults is extremely fun for me. I’ve taken my “little” flying and enjoy mentoring her and encouraging her as she grows.
Someone told me a long time ago not to be guilted into things that aren’t enjoyable for me. Leave the available position open for the right person.
The flyGIRL Scholarship
This Saturday, the culmination of my donated personal time and money was reached. A check for $5,000 was gladly handed over to a well-deserving female pilot. I’ve spent many hours preparing for this one day. There has been a lot of planning, communicating, and organizing over the past several months, with various organizations and individuals. The time spent has been fun, painless and affirmative in every aspect. The money spent was rewarding in ways many may not be able to imagine. Being able to give MORE would be thrilling! My wish for everyone is to be able to find a purpose that helps others and brings you joy. There is nothing more satisfying than giving away your time and money to a cause that you believe in.
It’s Mothers Day and I want to dedicate this blog space to my mother, my favorite flyGirl. She wouldn’t want me to brag on her or share too many details about her life. She is from a family of nine children. She grew up in rural Tennessee. Her mother died when she was four years old. Her father was never going to be nominated for the “parent of the year” award. He could, however, have possibly been named “Top Moonshiner!” Several of her siblings have passed away through the years, some at a young age. She grew up very poor and had to occasionally live with older siblings and spent some time in orphanages. She was always very bright and could see a brighter future through hard work. Today, she is thriving! She has many friends and is still pursuing the many interests she has.
Top 5 Reasons I Love My Mom, My Favorite FlyGIRL!
1). My mother likes to work (and she made me work too)! As a teenager, on Saturday mornings, she would wake my sister and I up unreasonably early to pull weeds out of her flower beds, driveway cracks or just wherever she saw a little green twig spring up. Dang! Those pesky things grow fast: every weekend, pulling weeds. Now, the joy I feel when forcing my own children to pull weeds! It’s irreplaceable. If we weren’t pulling weeds, we were mowing the yard, cleaning the house, organizing the garage or whatever task she deemed necessary. She is a doer. She passed down a desire to accomplish things on my own and of being productive.
2) My mother believed in the payoff of persistence. If we weren’t forced into child labor by pulling weeds on Saturday mornings, then we were scheduled for softball practice in the scorching summer sun. That was really a drag because there are about a million sweat bees located on that exact field each day. I’ve been stung more times by those pesky insects than any girl should be. She also loved greeting me at the end of each school day with her softball glove, ready to get me practicing. There had to be a minimum of fifty pitches and then fielding grounders and then catching fly balls…All of that practice made me a good player. She taught me that mastering a skill or being good at something takes hard work, persistence and practice.
3) My mother loves to be productive. She is multi-talented and is rarely content sitting still. If there is something she wants accomplished, she will find a way to get it done. She prefers to figure out how to do something on her own, rather than hire someone. This has led to many discussions at her house, sitting over a disassembled doorknob, faucet or broken umbrella. “Mom, just throw it away and buy a new one,” or “let me hire someone to come repair that.” To which she replies, “Absolutely not! They’ll charge an arm and a leg!” She enjoys the satisfaction of completing her own projects. As a child, I remember going to the library so she could research certain topics in order to make a repair or create something. Of course, now she’s on YouTube figuring things out. Every time we visit her, she fills me in on her latest project. This can-do attitude has led me to figure some things out on my own as well.
4) My mother has always loved learning. As a child, she knew knowledge would lead to opportunities. She was a great student in school and always graduated in the top of her class. She enjoys soaking up knowledge by any means possible. As a child, she would watch PBS documentaries all the time (I wanted to die from boredom). We were regular public library visitors. She could get through a biography in mach speed time. She has always been the master at the game Trivial Pursuit. Growing up, our home had every trivial pursuit version there was. She would read the question card stacks for hours. For fun!! Her knowledge is vast. My desire to learn has definitely been influenced by her. Today, my children are rolling their eyes at me as my eyes are glued to the latest History Channel series of Ancient Discoveries.
4) My mother enjoys travel and experiencing new things. Growing up, we were always on a budget but both of my parents enjoyed traveling. They knew the benefits of seeing the world and wanted my sister and I to learn from those experiences. We never stayed at super fancy hotels but always had many activities planned. We would pack lunches to save money but would occasionally splurge at a well-known restaurant. Our vacations were well-balanced with normally some historical tours or sights and something more engaging and fun. My sister and I both love to travel and appreciate what those experience meant to us. We know that our children benefit from our vacations, even if they moan and groan sometimes (because they weren’t allowed to sleep until noon).
5) My mother demonstrates unconditional love. She and I are alike in many ways, but also have our differences. During my teenage years, I crossed every boundary and broke every rule. She stood by me and saw me through. Today, we still don’t agree on many things but she will listen to me and be my shoulder to cry on when needed. She is the first person I call when I’m upset, hurt or confused. My own teenagers push my limits today. The patience and love she demonstrates with me helps me be a better mom.
I love you FlyGIRL Carolyn!
During these past few months, my desire to share the beauty of aviation with the public and females, in particular, has grown particularly. FlyGIRL has been used to reach out and demonstrate all of the benefits of general aviation, flying and taking on personal dreams and challenges. Because of this, there have been many new experiences and connections made with individuals all over the world. It has truly been amazing for me.
This past week has been filled with so many amazing experiences. My flying skills have been tested and improved upon immensely. There were many things that were expected before embarking on a recent trip. Inevitably, there are the unexpected events as well. And so the story goes…
Confidence is Good
Since beginning my training, my life has changed in so many ways. Flying an airplane has brought confidence in me that did not exist before. When you become comfortable with who you are, many other things aren’t as scary or challenging as they once were. I’m passionate about sharing my love of aviation because of what this journey has done for me!
Several weeks ago, a complete stranger reached out to me via social media and invited me on a cross-country flying journey. This pre-planned trip would take me further than I’ve ever flown. Miraculously, the timing was perfect. Recent personal set-backs were calling for a hiatus. The completed itinerary would take me through eleven states! The highlights included mountain flying in Colorado to the highest elevation airport. We would also land at an airstrip at the bottom of The Grand Canyon, fly through the Grand Canyon corridor and visit Sedona. We would then circle back home through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Everything was perfectly laid out. All I needed to do was show up in my little plane!
Building Relationships: The Old
After receiving the invitation to join this flying group, I decided to invite my uncle Robert. He has been a huge part of my life and flying interest. He is getting older and spending time with him is very important to me. Besides the fact that he’s full of aviation experience and knowledge, he’s also a great listener. And I needed his advice on many things during this trip.
OK. Soooooooo, We were about to spend an entire week with two complete strangers! Have you ever planned a vacation with some people you have never met? What if we didn’t get along? What if they were annoying as hell? What if they turned out to be some kind of crazy stalkers?!?! After we reached our initial meeting destination, Kansas City, I realized they were normal. Whew! We hit it off very well and were graciously treated to lunch by some new aviation friends and supporters. Our journey together during that week took us through all kinds of environments, altitudes, weather conditions, hotels, meals and adult beverages. :) We will remain friends forevermore because of our common love of aviation and flying accomplishments. We will all be cheering for each other from here on out, even if we live in separate cities.
Because of the widespread reach of social media, connecting with other female pilots has been simplified. While visiting sunny Arizona, there were opportunities to enjoy a lunch with a new acquaintance and I was treated to a surprise visit from a new Facebook follower. Each of these women was such a joy to spend time with.
I’m extremely appreciative of the relationships that grew during this adventure.
Mountain Waves, Turbulence and Weather, Oh My!
The extreme conditions of flying to the west of the Mississippi…Wow. My “personal minimums” were forced to be abandoned after our first landing. Every airport had crosswind (ugh) gusting conditions of 15 knots or more from Missouri all the way back through our return to Arkansas. There was no mercy! Landing in Ohio is bound to be a piece of cake from here on out. Someone please slap me if I ever complain about a 10 knot crosswind…
I’d be lying if said I wasn’t scared out of my mind when embarking on the Rocky Mountain flying day lesson. Two minutes into the climb, we were being bounced around like popcorn in a skillet. The thoughts in my head went something like this: “What the #*@$ am I doing here?!?! I’ve lost my damn mind!” There are 14,000 foot mountains looming on every side of me. My knuckles were white and my hands were numb from squeezing the yoke so tightly, not to mention the amount of perspiration dripping down my back. There were nearly four plus hours ahead of me fighting the demons of mountain wave turbulence. If my instructor for the day had shown any reservation, I would’ve burst into tears! Thank God after the first hour, my confidence grew and anticipating the forced ascents and descents became much more tolerable. IF I ever decide to put myself through that torture again, there had better be a shot of tequila waiting for me on the ramp upon my return. That’s all I’m saying about that!
My autopilot was being uncooperative during some portions of the trip, which brings in a challenging physical element. Looking on the bright side, at least I wouldn’t have to worry about “Arm Day” at the hotel gym! Ha! We also had several unanticipated weather delays and diversions. Weather is such a HUGE part of aviation. As a pilot, you must learn to listen and accept what Mother Nature decides. These delays brought much needed rest after long days of flying and opportunities to download pictures and relive the flights.
The Best of the Best
The most memorable and best “unexpected” event took place while flying to the Grand Canyon. We had decided to mix it up a bit and rotated passengers. The trip coordinator, John, was now flying with me. We got to know each other well and shared a lot about ourselves, our lives, and our love of flying. I was lost in conversation and then, what seemed to be out of nowhere, surprisingly found myself flying through Monument Valley, Utah. We were surrounded by all of these beautiful formations. My electronic chart was leading me from one airport to another. I was just following the magenta GPS line, not really knowing what would lie along the route. We were alone, in the sky, at one of the most gorgeous regions in the United States. We could turn in any direction we chose if we wanted a closer look at any of the natural structures. And we did. It was colorful, peaceful and pure freedom. I will never forget it.
This trip brought a treasure of experiences; planned and unplanned. Pilots prepare as much as they can for flights and train for unexpected events that may occur. Many times these situations can be seen as annoying delays or obstacles. They can also be seen as opportunities to learn something. Unexpected opportunities are much more fun than disappointments!
I have recently been talking a lot about my “Bucket List.” This is a common term used to describe a list of things one wants to accomplish in their life. Lists are located throughout my house. There’s a note pad for my ever-evolving list next to my bed. If you don’t have a notepad next to your bed, then you must not wake up in the middle of the night overwhelmed with the next day’s priorities riddling your brain. Lucky… There’s a note pad in my top bathroom drawer (just in case, there’s an “aha” moment while brushing my teeth or putting on makeup)! There are numerous note pads of various shapes and sizes in our family office and in my study.
Notes, Notes, Everywhere!
One of my scandalous habits when I travel is to swipe the hotel rooms free pen and note pad. Each day. They always bring you a new one when cleaning the room. So, sometimes, I can walk away with 4-5 new (free) notepads! The cool thing about that habit is that the hotel name is always printed on the notepad. So, it also serves as a really cheap souvenir. You can be reminded of the trip someday in the future when you need to pull out a new notepad. Besides, as my grandfather would often say, “you paid for it!” This man would force the mini jelly’s and syrup bottles into my purse whenever we would meet for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel. Rest in peace Grandaddy, every time people look at me funny while swiping the single serve bottles in my coat pockets, I’m thinking of you!! :)
Not only are there paper note pads but I’m equipped with notepad app’s on my iPhone, each iPad and MacBook. And they all sync!!! How is it possible for me to forget anything?!?! And yet, it happens. Grrrrr.
Am I OCD?
Huge fan of lists. As I’m writing this, I turn to my right and spot 5 paper lists on my desk. A white board list on the floor and a cling dry erase list on my wall. Houston, do we have a problem…?
Lists can change your life. Don’t believe me? There is one list that completely changed mine recently. My official, documented “Bucket List” dated 1999. This list has been filed away in a file boldly labeled (I might have a labeling problem as well) “VITALS/MISC.” The title of this file seems like a complete oxymoron. How can it be vital AND miscellaneous? Miscellaneous is what you label anything that you really can’t fully describe or encompass or you just completely run out of ideas.
The Benefits of Organization
In 1999, my first son was born. This must have inspired me to get more organized and be proactive in my life planning. Can you say “nesting?” I hate being stereotypical but obviously, I succumbed. Thank goodness! What a gem this has been to stumble upon occasionally. Every couple of years, the filing cabinets would need a good reorganization and I would find this buried list; each time reviewing it and being able to cross a few things off that had been accomplished since the last time it had been discovered. It was always so satisfying to have some sort of PROOF that something significant had truly been accomplished while going about the day-to-day of life. My list has 26 items on it. Of those, 80% are some type of exotic, foreign travel destination or a risky adventure (motorcycles, white-water rafting, etc.). The other 20% are rather boring, but lofty: own a home, create children’s college savings account…You know, RESPONSIBLE things.
What Happened To Me?
Unusual, atypical experiences have always intrigued me. A few years ago, my life had become buried with repetitive things that brought me little satisfaction and were absolutely killing my desire to challenge myself and experience new things! It was during this time, that my bucket list from 1999 spoke to me.
Interestingly, the things many of us want to accomplish: savings, the accumulation of material things, were not satisfying Natalie, the adventure lover. Maybe this is the epitome of a mid-life crisis. Or maybe it was just a kick in the rear end to pursue the things that made me, ME. I believe that moms, wives, women have a more difficult time speaking up for themselves when it comes to pursuing their own interests. My breaking point came at the same time my “bucket list” resurfaced. Earning my pilots license was listed as #8. The next day, I called a local flight school and signed up. Ever since that first discovery flight, Natalie was back. Everything in me has been reawakened. My priorities have aligned. My to-do lists are so much shorter now. Things that don’t bring me joy are eliminated. They never make it on a piece of paper. My life has completely changed. There’s never been more focus or more personal satisfaction.
Using Lists To Prioritize Your Life
If you don’t have a bucket list, make one. If you can sit down and reflect on the things that you dreamed of as a child, do it and write these things down. Figure out a way to pursue your interests. If you’re a mom, do it for your kids. They need to see an example of someone being authentic, learning to prioritize, working towards a goal no matter your age. The flyGIRL mission is not just about encouraging women to pursue aviation. It’s about encouraging women to pursue their dreams.
The last 8 days have been packed with so many experiences, it’s very difficult to narrow down what I’d most like to share. There are many stories crowding my brain, which have annoyingly been waking me in the middle of the night! That’s a good problem to have because it means a lot has happened. Sleep is nice too though… Being away from home is a challenge. There have been a few fires that needed to be put out via text, emails and even, (GASP!) phone conversations! You know it’s bad when you actually have to put the phone up to your ear and talk to another human. Talking on the phone is my idea of torture, but occasionally it must be done, in order to take care of business.
The following list is absolutely cut down as much as possible. This is not supposed to be a novel that would bore you to tears, just some light entertainment. In no certain order, the highlights of this past week were:
1) A New Flight Instructor. Wayne recently decided to leave a stressful job he was no longer enjoying. He has started his own flight school. It’s courageous to leave something comfortable and start something new. He’s passionate about introducing aviation to others. He’s been flying since he was a teenager. We discussed flyGIRL hope to help each other out in the future. This is exciting for me because there are females all over that country that want to learn to fly. Now, there’s someone I can work with to help make that happen. Maybe this will require more “business trips” to sunny California?? Not a terrible place to visit. :)
2) A New Flight Path. After recently attending the Women in Aviation conference, there were a few new flying traditions other women have implemented that were intriguing enough for me to adopt. One female pilot suggested renting planes or flying with an instructor on vacations, as much as possible. She’s logged more than 300 airports, all over the WORLD. This includes: Ireland, Africa, France, Japan, etc. How cool is that? Sounds like something worth doing. Locating the perfect airport was fairly easy. Simply renting a plane and taking it out for a spin isn’t super easy. Apparently, the plane owners (and their insurance companies) want to be sure you know what the hell you’re doing. There’s usually some required ground and flight review. That’s a time commitment. The other option is to basically hire the instructor for his time and he/she will accompany you as you fly the plane. Perfect! The best part is, you meet and get to fly with cool people. They’re pilots after all. Of course they’re awesome!
3) Seeing Old Friends (no implication that my friends are all old). Age is such a misleading pain in the ass. It’s all about a person’s attitude. A person can continue to grow until the Angel of Death comes for them, no matter their age! When you’re surrounded by people who have witnessed your ups and downs, it’s heart-warming. My dearest friends live all over the country. We are each others cheerleaders even though we’re quite some distance from each other or only see each other once a year. Some of the other friends I was able to catch up with are fairly new friends in aviation but we come together to share in each other’s accomplishments.
4) Making New Friends. I am not an outgoing person. The use of social media can make it seem otherwise. However, I do like to reach out. Social media has allowed cyber-relationships to form. Because of these platforms, being at a large event, like Sun ’N Fun allows for an instant connection with people that have come together for a common interest from all over the world. Having “Friends/Followers” allowed for personal introductions with people I wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet otherwise. It’s very cool to have a built-in network of friends. I’m grateful for those new, personal connections.
5) Seeing Airplanes. Air shows are about as All-American and patriotic as you can get. Once surrounded by aviation history, there’s a renewed sense of pride in being an American. America is the birthplace of aviation: Orville and Wilbur Wright. Witnessing some of the oldest aircraft in existence along with the newest, most technologically advanced aircraft, reminds me of the brain power, personal risk and technological advancements American’s have made. Together. We come together to create for the betterment of American life and to protect others all over the world from abuse of power that causes human suffering. The fascination with airplanes isn’t just about the aircraft itself, it’s about everything that went into creating that aircraft and the reasoning behind its development. On top of that, we continue to push ourselves to improve our power and might. Not for the purpose of dominating others, but for the purpose of protecting the rights of humans.
6) Becoming A Teacher (although, I’m no expert)! A friend of mine came down from Cincinnati to join me at the Sun ’N Fun fly-in/airshow. After his arrival, he informed me that he had never been to an air show. Are you serious? This man is in his 40’s, for crying out loud! This is a travesty, to which I asked “What have you been doing?” His life has revolved around sports. We spent two full days exploring this vast airplane display and watching the performers. Being an official tour guide became my mission, providing history on planes and some basic flying fundamentals. It was so fun to share! He was grateful for the opportunity to learn more about aviation. Hopefully, he will introduce his family to this awesome world!
7) Forming New Goals. My bucket list has grown over the past week. Is that good or bad? Hearing people share their experiences simply makes me want to be better and continue to challenge myself. Being constantly inspired and looking forward to the future helps me enjoy and appreciate all that life has to offer. Life is more fun when your bucket list keeps growing! How exciting to have new things to accomplish! Many pilots have a “bucket list” they are constantly working on or adding to: scheduling check rides, earning more type ratings, flying to a new and different airport or country. There’s nothing that makes me feel more alive than looking forward to a new chapter or a new experience.
8) Noting Appreciation. OK. This section isn’t highly philosophical. It is not intended as a “whining” section either. During this vacation, WiFi was almost non-existent. There was a cell tower down near my hotel. Therefore, cell service was almost non-existent as well. The treadmill in the gym was broken. It appeared to have been that way for quite some time by the amount of dust that had collected on it. My shower was barely a trickle of cool water. Never warm. Every night created a crick in my neck because of the cardboard pillows provided. There was no hotel room service (this part is a bit whiny, I admit)! This made me appreciate the comforts of home. Everything as it should be.
9) Lightning Up: Having New Experiences. Almost every trip taken, includes something to learn. This was no exception. I flew on a B-17! Being interviewed about flyGIRL a number of times, taught me a few things about myself. Talking about things I’m passionate about is fun and easy. Apparently, a southern accent never disappears either. At the recommendation of others, personal flyGIRL videos needed to be made during the air show. Being filmed by a videographer is new to me. It felt rather silly at first; people are walking by, watching me…By the end, I was ready to hire an agent and seeking my first film contract with Paramount! Hahahaha! It was fun! Maybe it was a little silly. So what? What’s wrong with being silly?!?! For all we know, I could be dead tomorrow. I want to have fun while I’m still alive!
10) Experiencing Genuine Interest From Others. After speaking with many people, old friends and new friends, it became apparent that most were genuinely interested in my new, personal pursuits and business. Most wanted to know more about flyGIRL and my mission for inspiring others to pursue their dreams. There were many offers of advice and support, to which I’m grateful. There wasn’t a single negative comment or word of discouragement. Not a single one! Building others up is a trait the general aviation community demonstrates very well.
So, there you have it. My Top Ten. Amazingly, I could easily come up with more, even despite some of the inconveniences of hotel living. Most importantly, let me encourage my enormous fan base (that’s sarcasm) to look for an environment where you can experience something new, teach someone something and be appreciative of what surrounds you. Of course, if you know me, it’s my belief, that travel is the best way to learn about the world and yourself. That’s why I love it so much! If you step out of the routine, you become more aware of what’s going on around you. The end of a trip will always arrive. Soak up as many experiences as possible while you can! What does the next trip have in store for me? I can hardly wait to find out. At this moment, on the plane ride home, the thought of clean clothes puts a huge smile on my face.
Today has been a “catch-up” day. There have been numerous items on my desk and on my “to-do” list. One of the tasks at hand was to complete my review of the 21 flyGIRL scholarship applicant narratives and letters of recommendation. Admittedly, when the final count of 21 applications came in, I was extremely excited that so many women were taking advantage of this scholarship opportunity. At first, there was concern that maybe there weren’t as many women interested in aviation as I’d thought. Thankfully, there are! After reading about the first two applicants in the stack, a pit formed in my stomach. How will I be able to choose one winner? How will I be able to turn down any of these women?
Common Theme: Early Exposure
There is a common theme among most of the applicants: exposure to flying and a love of aviation from an early age. There are many who come from a family of aviation, like myself. When you’re exposed to something at a young age, it has an impact on you. This may be because we are soaking up so much information during these early, formative years. We are taking mental notes constantly and observe what makes those around us radiate. For me, it was obvious early on that my father loved flying in the Navy. He was extremely proud wearing his Naval uniform. He enjoyed discussing his aviation career with his family and friends from his childhood.
My uncle showed his passion for flying by sharing it with others. Interestingly, not many would take him up on his offers of flight. Maybe I did because my father was a pilot and I felt drawn to do something that he enjoyed. There are things we say “yes” to simply because we want to participate in similar things that others in our lives experience. We want to understand one another and have connections.
Common Theme: Perseverance
The noticeable, second common theme is the perseverance these women have for reaching their goals. The age range of applicants varies significantly. This is encouraging. Young women are already planning their future, forging their path, making a plan. Some of the older applicants are starting a new dream or still working on completing a dream they’ve had since they were young. They’re each advancing ahead, determined to do what it takes to reach that important goal. Most people know that planning for study time takes discipline. When it comes to the financial budgeting required to pay for flying time, it can be disheartening. Students can go weeks without being able to rent a plane, pay for an instructor and fill the planes gas tanks. Most of the applicants have experienced all kinds of financial frustrations and personal set-backs but yet continue to press forward, looking to the end goal.
Common Theme: New Found Confidence
During a recent interview, before receiving the scholarship applications, I was asked why more women don’t pursue aviation. Answering for the entire female population is a huge responsibility! For myself, a lack of confidence during my early college years, led me to believe that many things were unattainable, including aviation. I thought: Aren’t pilots somewhere near the genius IQ level…? 🤓 (believe me, if I could go back in time and shake myself!)…
After reading through the first few scholarship applications, the lack of confidence some women experience became the third common theme. More than half of the women originally felt they didn’t have what it took to be a pilot. They pursued other careers they felt would be easier or more suitable. Realizing after some time and maturity, that they were actually competent enough, they have renewed old dreams. To me, this demonstrates why there are many more male pilots. Men are more confident. That could be because of how men are treated when they’re growing up or it could be just inherent. Blaming men for the gender gap in aviation is unproductive. Maybe…it’s just the way we are each created. Gasp! Maybe women’s confidence peaks at a later time in life. So what? That’s why we can’t give up on our dreams at a certain age or stage in life!! There’s always time to strive for an old dream or create a new dream.
The flyGIRL scholarship applicants each have an impressive story and attainable dreams. I wholeheartedly believe in each and every one of them and know that their future is full of exciting things to come! For me to be able to help one of them this year is a great honor.