I have found that very few – if any – student pilots’ journeys to licensed pilot are easy, simple experiences. Most contain a series of harrowing stories, a tremendous financial hurdle, a facing-off with ones mortality and deepest fears, an ability to prioritize something that feels out of reach, a small army of supporters, and a sprinkling of prickly personalities to contend with. I know this because of my own story, and from listening to so many others that did and didn’t make it to the finish line.
Today I arrived in Vernon, Texas to Girls In Flight Training week – a program modeled after the WWll WASP training program in Sweetwater, Texas where women trained women to fly. I have only met a few of the women I will be working with this week but already I am hearing familiar things. Things like “I have over 100 hours and haven’t soloed yet” and “I am the only girl at my airport” and “my last three flight instructors dropped me because their wives didn’t want him flying with a girl.”
A few years ago AOPA published an article asking if aviation needed an all girls’ flight school. After some of the shared experiences I’ve heard today, I would suggest an all girls flight school in every state. There are women here from all over the country, one from Mexico.
This place feels like a sanctuary of kindred spirits. It hasn’t even officially begun yet but I am encouraged and excited. We’ve all made sacrifices to be here. It wasn’t just a plane ticket and a week off of work. It was leaving my husband a day after surgery after a two week stint in the hospital. I left him to his own devices because he insisted. He understood how important this would be for me.
So, here I am in the middle of nowhere hoping to finish my private license in the next few days. Across the country on a different time zone my dogs are wondering where I’ve gone and my husband is ordering take-out to survive. None of it is easy, but no one’s story ever is, male or female. I hope this is the last hurdle to my PPL.
This is what the middle of nowhere looks like.