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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pilot Gives Back to Community

Mark Berney, a pilot from SkyWest Airlines, and I connected last year at the Women in Aviation conference. He was interested in the flying events we hosted in Seattle, as he was planning one of his own. But his flying club is unique, as they were hosting their event for local foster kids.

I had wanted to go talk to the girls during their event, but was unable due to that commitment called work. But I hope we will see this fabulous event again next year, and I will block off the month to make it happen. 

This aviation camp was a huge success. They had beautiful weather, and took the kids flying. I had asked Mark if he would share with us what they were doing, and what this meant to the teens. Here you go...

"What does it mean to be a foster care teen? How would these young people react to the airport environment? Would there be fear and meekness, or an underlying strength since they'd been more self-dependent at an early age? I could guess, but I didn't really know. These were my thoughts as I prepared the conference room at the Bremerton National Airport for the imminent arrival of ten teenage foster care girls, their camp councilors, and a significant group of support staff.

Teen Reach Adventure Camp, or TRAC, is an orginization that provides three day camp experiences to teens in the Foster Care system. The Kitsap Aviation Squadron, KAS, is a longstanding flight club of 30 pilots and two Cessnas based in Bremerton. For the first time, day one of TRAC would include a visit to the airport and introductory flights for all the campers and councilors, courtesy of KAS pilots.

At 1:00 pm sharp we spotted the yellow bus as it rolled into the airport parking lot. A high, thin overcast veiled the blue sky, but calm winds and great visibility gave the promise of smooth, enjoyable rides. The campers filed into the airport conference room, and it was clear that these bright, capable girls possessed a mix of courage, excitement, and a touch of nerves at the prospect of their first flight in a light aircraft.

Flyers were introduced to their pilots, and the first two flights were dispatched. Soon both aircraft departed and disappeared over the tree line. Twenty quiet minutes passed for those of us on the ground. Curious questions were asked and answered. One aircraft descended back into the airfield, followed closely by the second. The first flyer back through the doors was greeted by a round of applause! "I landed the airplane!" She nearly squealed. The campers excitement began to build and pilots swelled with satisfaction knowing that the ranks of those enamored by flight had swelled just a bit.

The tone of day was now set. A total of eight flights departed, and were met by applause upon return. As feet hit the ground post-flight, reactions ranged from the dance of joy to the kneal and kiss the ground act for the sake of onlookers! At the end of the day 10 campers were sent on their way with a fantastic experience under their belt, and with broadened horizons. When asked who would become a pilot, four responded with a determined affirmative!

Thanks to the dedicated TRAC staff, and the folks of KAS, the day was a complete success!

A huge thanks is due to Jim Swartwood, Jay Villalva and Steve Jennings for donating their time to fly the kids. Thanks also to Steve Charbonneau, KAS president, and John Wells, KAS Treasurer, who spent the day supporting the event, and spending time with the campers as they waited their turn to fly."

-Mark Berney, KAS member and event coordinator.

Being a teenager is a tough time as it is. Then to be in the foster care system, and the feeling of someone not wanting you, well...that's got to compound this challenging time. But to climb into a plane is a powerful thing. To fly even more so. This was an opportunity of a lifetime for these girls. And I suspect Mark and his team changed some lives in the process. A HUGE thank you to Mark for coordinating this event, to all the pilots and everyone who made the effort to make this event a huge success.

Mark and his son who is now 14

Enjoy the journey and find a way to make a difference!
XO Karlene


  1. The gift of flying is a gift that keeps on giving! Great work, Mark!

    1. Thank you Cecilie!! I think you should come out for one of these events! :) You can stay with me.

  2. Mark, this is such a beautiful action.

    Interesting that you appeared with such initiative because I thought on foster homes for teenagers this week. It's a coincidence and now I know there are pilots who care about them.

    Promoting flight, promoting aviation to young (almost adults?) people in foster homes is something that might give hope to them for better horizons in their lives and obviously they can also find very inspiring to go cloud-surfing.

    This reminded me of Karlene's idea of changing the way pilots will accumulate flight-hours when she earns her Ph.D. Imagine foster-kids been able to have access to a great (and prosperous) industry! They might have the passion and don't have any knowledge about it because nobody gave them a chance...

    Very well done indeed!


    1. Alex, Thank you so much for the great comment. Could you imagine a world that we gave this gift to everyone? Such an empowering thing! I know you will be making a difference in your life too.

  3. I absolutely love everything that Mark and you, Karlene, are doing to give back to the community. I'm sure those girls had an amazing experience! I can't wait for the opportunity one day to give back and pay forward all of the opportunities that have been afforded to me in aviation,

    What an awesome thing you're doing Mark!

    1. Swayne, I think that you will be giving back before you know it. Maybe you could help coordinate something in the future at your airport! When you do... I'll be there. Thanks for the comment.


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