I'd already decided to become an Airline Pilot, and after that first flight--- there would be nothing that could stop me. But not only a pilot--- I wanted a family too. Yes-- women can do it all! Can't we? Why not?
Oh, the answers to "why not" were many. Responsibility to the kids, to the family, to the home. How could a mother be out of town and leave her husband to babysit? How could the family survive without our cooking, and cleaning skills? What kind of mother would fly off and leave her kids?
Guilt. Exhaustion. Conflict.
I actually had a captain at a major airline, during an interview, say to me, "You haven't flown in three years, you don't appear to be a very dedicated pilot."
My response, "But sir, my kids were born in 83, 84, and 85, and I was in college during that time, and I..."
He interrupted me and said, "That wasn't a question, that was a statement." End of that interview.
Yes, the balancing act of motherhood and flying has been an exhausting challenge. There would be times I'd go to what I called my paid vacation, others called work, to rest. But the journey has been exciting, and continues to throw new surprises my way.
This year I had the opportunity to meet Mireille Goyer, the woman behind the Centennial Of Women Pilots. Mireille has been honoring the 100 year anniversary of the first licensed female pilot, Raymond De Laroche, by introducing women and girls to the gift of aviation. She opened the door for many. But for me as well.
Pilots stepped up. Aviation enthusiasts emerged. People came together to partake in our Fly It Forward event. Not once, not twice, but on three occasions energy rose in Seattle/Renton.
Thirty one years ago I took to the sky in a Cessna. Today I fly wide bodies worldwide. But my step back in time, coordinating our Fly It Forward events... Talking with the pilots.... Seeing young girls light up like I once had.... brought my life full circle. Remind me of what aviation is all about. It's more than the job, it's the people who sparkle when they see an airplane and who bend over backwards to share that gift with someone else.
December 31st, I took to the sky, with a skilled and daring instructor Shad Pipkin. 31 years later, my life has come full circle. I taxied a Cessna off the same ramp, and departed the same runway, that I had 31 years ago.
But I needed passengers! It was New Years Eve. The women were gone. There was nobody for me to fly. We called the other FBO's, we called the Tower... "Do you have any unlicensed women we can take flying?" The answer, "It's New Years Eve, everyone is gone."
Fortunately, a couple in BEFA, opened their phone and began calling friends. They found Marcella, who said she'd bring her daughters down. The sky was growing dark. I was supposed to be home to babysit my grandson. Mireille, Shad and Theresa had an opportunity to go for a helicopter ride if they could get to Boeing. The clock ticks, and we wait.
|Marcela, Victoria, and Veronica|
I took our final two passengers, Victoria and Veronica, for the last flight of 2010 in our Fly It forward Event, in hope of making Renton Airport the most female friendly airport in the world. The same airport that gave me life.
Mireille asked me to send her this story to enter in the most unusual flight of the year. If nothing else, it's definitely unique.
~Enjoy the Journey