I figured what better time to write a new article since it is, after all, Women’s History Month! The Women in Aviation International conference was this month, so there’s been a lot going on celebrating women. For me personally, I certainly have not been slacking off since my last article! To the contrary,  I have been working my tail off (yes, pun intended) achieving major strides with my own journey.  Since my last article about the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, I have earned two more ratings–which now makes a total of four earned within a seven-month time period! It hasn’t been without adversity, which is the whole point of me reaching out to you all.

So to bring you up to date, I am now a commercially-rated jet pilot with single-pilot privileges.  From what I am hearing, it is quite noteworthy for someone like me who doesn’t have many flight hours to bypass the crew type-rating and go straight for the single-pilot type. But, you know me–never one to back down from a challenge, right?

In essence, I had an ATP checkride for my first jet type-rating.  And when I say worked my tail off, I really meant it. I am exhausted. You couldn’t even imagine what it took for me to achieve these last two ratings.  Something that should have taken me 5 days ended up being a several-month ordeal!

Flying the Diamond DA-42 in preparation for my Commercial Rating checkride. (Photo courtesy of author)
Flying the Diamond DA-42 in preparation for my Commercial Rating checkride. (Photo courtesy of author)

I encountered what seemed to be a ridiculous number of roadbloacks: starting and stopping numerous times because of scheduling conflicts, money-hungry instructors, a DPE I personally believe is corrupt, and even a well-known flight school was giving me quite a few challenges to overcome initially.

There were two main factors I feel played a big part in the adversity I had to overcome: 1) I am financially indepedent and, 2) the fact I am–dare I say it–female. In the aviation field, I believe a lot of people assume that women get a lot of free-passes–especially in their flight training. Here’s a reality check for those folks: it’s quite the opposite. In my own personal experience, I believe it’s been more challenging for me as a woman in aviation, as it seems a great number of men in the industry simply do not want to see women succeed in their flying endeavors.

I have experienced a lot of anger, envy, and jealousy over personal milestones I’ve reached in my life as a pilot. It’s quite disheartening and sad to think because of my gender and because of my means, I’m somehow fair game for scorn and dismissal.  Here’s another reality check–not a single one of those naysayers was in the cockpit during my checkride(s), nor were they the ones forking out thousands of dollars. I passed because the DPE ulitmately determined I had the knowledge base and the skill to operate the aircraft competently and safely, regardless of the flight regime I was being tested in. You’ve heard it said here before and I’ll reiterate the point: the airplane is the greatest equalizer in the world, and it could care less about my gender, or my bank account.

In some instances during this process, I was my own worst enemy. I subjected myself sadness, anger, frustration, anxiety, and almost resignation. You don’t know how many times I wanted to just hang it up. At the end of the day, pride will get us all into trouble and we need to have humility. A great example? The weather. I was very driven, almost to the point of being obsessive, and there were times I was so angry about the fact Mother Nature was being less than cooperative and hurling inclement meteorological conditions into my plans, seemingly out of spite. Remember safety must always win the day in that case. The instant you don’t respect the weather, it can ruin your day at least…or even kill you. Natural adversity is something not to be trifled with!

Throughout this whole process, an important lesson I've learned is this: you simply cannot take yourself too seriously! (Photo courtesy of author)
Throughout this whole process, an important lesson I’ve learned is this: you simply cannot take yourself too seriously! (Photo courtesy of author)

Being brutally honest, what really got me through all of this was not taking myself or anyone else too seriously, and just allowing myself to have a good laugh–even at my own expense.  I’m sure we’ve all had our Homer Simpson (Doh!) moments– especially before, during and after an important flight. My most recent one was when I was going for my Commercial Rating checkride.  Check this out, and you’ll get a chuckle out of it!

I had just pre-flighted the plane, fueled up and we were ready to head out. As my instructor and I got in, I was trying to close the canopy of the Diamond DA42 and I could not get the darn door to latch.  We were both checking and neither of us could figure it out.  Luckily, we were sitting outside of maintenance. After being waved down, a tech came jogging over to us, took one look and says, “your seatbelt is hanging out of the door.”

Okay. Nothing to see here folks!  I really do know what I’m doing, I swear!  Ha ha ha.

I feel there are so many opportunities within aviation itself to always be learning and growing.  I don’t care if you have 10 hours or 10,000–there’s always room to improve yourself, regardless of your gender. I’m not just referring to being a pilot, either; there are so many fields within aviation to to explore. Areas such as ATC, flight instruction, manufacturing, line crew, and even the aerospace engineering required to design an aircraft are all of paramount importance!

By the way, making mistakes and failing is okay!  Don’t beat yourself up!  We are all beginners at something, right?  If we knew everything about everything, there wouldn’t be a need or even the capacity to grow, learn, and expand our minds.  During this process, I have learned a great deal about the not-so-pretty side of the aviation industry, but the most important lessons I learned were about myself.  I have had to adjust my path moving forward with how I want to be, reminded of how treat others, to mentor, encourage and inspire.

It the controls of the Mustang. (Photo courtesy of author)
It the controls of the Mustang. (Photo courtesy of author)

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I feel that quote is entirely appropriate in the context of your flight training. Don’t rush through your training, thinking it is somehow a race, that you have to do it within a certain time frame because someone else did it faster, or did it better than you.  The comparison trap is just that–a trap. Don’t go there. Your journey is your own, so no cutting corners.  Every time you think you can outsmart the process, it will reach back and slap you…every…single…time.

Be the captain of your own ship. You don’t need someone else to accomplish tasks and overcome the adversity in your path.  That’s on you, so set goals and then go out and crush them.  You are the only one who can pursue your dreams and make them a reality.  Laugh at yourself and brush off your mistakes–because you will make them. Don’t forget to surround yourself with people who believe in you and believe in your dream.

People may try to derail you, and the only way they can is if you allow it. You get to decide how your story ends, so write it the way you want it.

Until next time, FighterSweep Fans!