This is the first journal entry provided to us by Susana Mai, who was selected for a Private Pilot Scholarship from Girls With Wings. The Girls With Wings 2014 Scholarship Program includes the Private Pilot Scholarship, to help defray the cost of flight training lessons in pursuit of a private pilot certificate. This scholarship targets those individuals who have soloed but have not completed the Private Pilot Course. The Private Pilot Scholarship is in the amount of $1000.00, funded by the generous donations from supporters of Girls With Wings, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Susana's application essay is published here and her first essay here.
The last few times I’ve written I’ve talked mostly about how much fun flying is, why I’m so grateful, and how confident it makes me feel. But I think I’m going to change things up a bit and start giving advice to all women who might be pursuing their private pilot license.
First off, take advantage of all the possible connections you can have within the aviation community. The more people you know, the safer, more educated, and happier you will be as a student pilot and beyond.
For example, I attended meetings hosted by the Tehachapi Society of Pilots (TSP) for a few months while living in California, and I learned so much from my fellow local pilots. These guys told me about free FAA seminars to attend, and often hosted meetings regarding local safety matters. Tehachapi Municipal is a mile north of Mountain Valley, where the famous gliderport is based (people come from all over the country just to soar over the Sierra Nevadas), and over at TSP they taught us all about how to fly more safely in the same airspace as gliders, which have NO radio equipment! Depending on winds and the current traffic pattern, an aircraft taking off from Tehachapi could interfere with a glider coming in to land at Mountain Valley. After that meeting I learned to take collision avoidance maneuvers and scans more seriously, because not every plane—not gliders or your average Piper Cub—will necessarily be making radio calls. Being a part of a local pilot’s organization or flying club is a great way to keep abreast of this sort of local information and to be in touch with pilots who have a lot of experience and are able to provide anecdotes of their experiences. I became way more conscientious about those stalls you can experience during a steep bank on base-to-final when I saw a video of a local pilot’s (unfatal) crash. Anecdotes are powerful, and so my advice is that you attend FAA seminars, google local airport associations and flying clubs near you, and talk to as many pilots as you can about their experiences and take their words to heart.
Secondly, if there’s one thing I’ve learned through Girls With Wings, it’s how amazing and friendly the pilot and women pilot network is. Even joining Facebook groups like Girls With Wings has given me exposure to the private and commercial aviatrixes ruling our skies. Seeing their posts filled with advice, inspirational videos, and flight plans helped motivate me while I was studying for my FAA Written, made me feel not so alone in my crazy desire to fly all the time, and constantly encourages me to become a better pilot. I also just moved back to the East Coast for school, which means that after months of getting familiar with Southern California and piloting the Piper Cherokee, I suddenly have to learn to fly in a completely new landscape, and consider the fact that I may have to start renting other planes. While I’m sure that flying a Cessna 150 or 172 will have a fairly easing learning curve, there’s still always something to be said about having hours in your current type aircraft. My training is being put to the test, and, worst of all, at a time where I don’t necessarily have a network of pilots supporting me like I did in Tehachapi. But every little bit of support helps. Through the Girls With Wings Facebook page I discovered the East Coast Private Pilots group, where people are planning meet and greets all along the East Coast, from Virginia to Massachusetts, and my hope is to meet up with some of these wonderful people this summer if I’m able. Still, just being able have a safe forum to ask questions online is a huge gift.
Thirdly, don’t be shy about wanting to fly. Because the aviation community is so small, it is also an incredibly loving community. Time and time again I have seen people completely fresh to the idea of flying treated very warmly at their local airport. While most pilots won’t really take your commitment seriously until you’ve soloed, without a doubt pilots love encouraging anyone and everyone to sign up for lessons. At the local FBO my good friend Ken, an A&P and IA who rented me my Cherokee, lets young kids in town work with him in his shop for reduced rental rates. The kids love it because they learn about aircraft maintenance, get to fly planes, and have a cooler after school activity than all their high school friends. Ken doesn’t make money off of it, but it makes him happy to see young people in aviation. These opportunities are around, but sometimes you have to go out, look for them, and ask for help. I used to be very shy about accepting rides when I was a student, or flying new planes when I got my license. But if I didn’t end up saying yes once in a while, I would have 1) never known what it felt like to ride in a Piper Cub, a Bonanza, a Grumman Yankee, an RV-4 or a Zenith, or to fly a Cessna 150. 2) I would have never been able to see how other pilots fly. It’s only by watching others that you realize how much you have learned, and how much more there still is to learn.
So, basically, keep learning, keep active within the aviation community, and don’t be shy about pursuing your dreams! This is what helped me get my private pilot license, and I’m sure it’ll help me for many more ratings to come.
Essays about flight training from the other awardees will be published here as they are received.