I recently took a trip to Oklahoma City for the first time. Yay! I can check Oklahoma off my “states to visit” list! Someone told me about the free classes the FAA offers at their campus that can specifically help pilots. Learning is something that I cannot get enough of, especially as I get older. Time is running out for me to soak up as much information as my brain will hold, after all! Signing up required a phone call, as there is no way to register on the FAA website. When registering, I was greeted with a very friendly FAA employee (not what I was expecting, I admit). I was hoping to fly myself down but the weather on my anticipated return didn’t look good so I had to fly commercial. Booooo! Once I’ve experienced the freedom to depart in my own plane whenever I want, being cued in a line by the TSA and herded like cattle in the airport doesn’t come easily. Upon arrival (delayed albeit), the hotel was a welcome site. Uber has become my way of transportation when traveling, therefore no car rental arrangement had been made. The following morning at breakfast, I was invited to sit with a woman who wore an FAA badge. There tends to be a negative attitude among General Aviation pilots towards the FAA, so I was not sure how pleasant the breakfast would be. There’s a well-known saying among the aviation industry: “The FAA, we’re not happy until you’re not happy.” As I got to know this nice lady, the realization that my negative stereotype towards the FAA was not applicable. She warned me that Uber would not be able to get me in the campus and that she would drive me in her rental car, even though we were going to different locations. It was apparent when we arrived to check-in that I was naive about the size of the campus and security measures. Thankfully, on Day 1, she saved me. While conversing with her over coffee and muffins, she told me her aviation history. She has earned many ratings throughout her life and is nearing retirement. As a young college-aged woman, she left home, moved across the country, worked as a Vegas waitress until finally deciding that she wanted to be a pilot. She held 3 jobs while in school and had to take on a few student loans to get her through. She’s had many opportunities to use her aviation skills throughout her life. After becoming employed with the FAA several years ago, her flying time diminished. She still has a love of aviation and has greatly enjoyed the places she’s been able to visit, the people she’s met and the experiences she’s been able to enjoy throughout her career. She was such an inspiration! The class I was in consisted of 25-30 people on Day 1. Half of this number were Border Patrol officers. They were from California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Some of them work as undercover agents, which I found most interesting. Photos of them could be life-threatening! I cannot imagine that pressure! They were all very friendly, and I was able to get to know a few of them more personally. There were students with military backgrounds and some without. I was pleased to meet three FedEx corporate pilots from Memphis. Being with southerners is always comforting for me, especially being from Tennessee!! They each had their own aviation background and story that they were happy to share. There were two other women, besides myself, in this class. I quickly became close to one of them. She earned her private pilots license in 2004 but has not been able to fly for several years. Missing flight, she has recently employed an instructor and is working through a “Rusty Pilots” program so that she can get back in the air very soon! She resides in Chicago and has family she wants to be able to visit with the use of her plane in Michigan and Indiana. She hopes to be able to share a plane with a partner to keep the expense manageable. She owns two successful companies and offered me many great pieces of advice for my flyGIRL venture. What I can say about the aviation community is that they’re all great people. Friendly. Insightful. Full of different experiences that they are happy to share so that someone else can benefit. One of my favorite parts of this trip, was meeting so many great people and hearing their stories. Pilots share a special bond, an understanding, a camaraderie. We all know how taxing the training can be. We all know the rewards of the hard work. We all love to experience life and be tested. The aviation community is a special family, with members all over the world. Thanks to the FAA for teaching me more about people!