Airline Pilot

Even though I loved every minute of the first flight I took, and even though I
really love my flying job and the company I work for, I almost didn't become
an airline pilot.  The first time I remember being on an airplane was as a
young teenager, when my family was going to Orlando to visit family nearby
and go to Disney World.  For me, the flight was more of a thrill than any of
the Disney rides, and I think I bored everyone by going on and on about it!  
But no one in my family flew, and they were under the impression (as some
people still seem to be) that the only path to an airline cockpit was through
the military - and as they more or less put it, "you wouldn't want to do
THAT, would you?"  Not knowing better myself, I assumed they must be
right, and to this day, the question remains:  would I have perhaps liked the
military option?  Now I will never know.  

So I went to college, and then to graduate school, studying the subject I
liked best - history of art.  Much as I loved my studies, though, I was a
classic case of someone who "didn't know what they wanted to be when they
grew up."  I lived in London for five years, and was hired to write for an
encyclopedia about art, as well as work on its index.  But this was a finite
project, and especially once it was completed, I felt less and less as though I
was doing my true life's work.

After moving back to the USA in the mid-1990s, I finally did my own research
about learning to fly, and discovered that not only was it possible, it wasn't
too late to start!  Fortunately for me, I was in a financial position to quit my
(non-flying-related) job and be a full-time student pilot.  After looking at a
few local flight schools, I enrolled at a Part 141 school at Oakland Airport and
began the hard work of earning my ratings.  

The day I soloed, my instructor got out of the airplane and watched me while
standing next to a taxiway.  I talked to myself the whole way around the
traffic pattern, saying things he was always saying.  It is, of course, an
indescribable feeling to be in an airplane all by yourself for the first time.  But
equally, I will never forget the day I drove home with my freshly inked private
pilot certificate.  I drove east across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, back to
Marin County, saying over and over again out loud, "I'm a pilot!  I'm a pilot!"  
Anyone who saw me from another car must have thought I'd lost my mind,
but it was one of the best days of my life.

After that, the milestones kept coming, and with each new certificate and
rating, my confidence grew with my experience and knowledge.  I earned my
CFI and was soon hired to teach ground school and primary flight students
at the school I was attending, while continuing work on my CFII and MEI.  

I did get a relatively late start in flying (I still love hearing stories about people
soloing on their 16th birthday!), but was in the right place at a good time
(with the right experience) for the two airlines I've worked at.  I had one
regional airline interview (at my first choice of a regional), was offered the job,
and stayed there for several years.  I finished up there as an RJ Captain, and
grew immensely as an aviator through each stage of my career there.  I
greatly enjoyed my time working there and met lots of great people, and I'm
still a big fan of the airline.  And then in January 2008, I had my first and only
major airline interview - again at my first choice!  Being offered this job was
truly a dream come true, and since starting new-hire class in September last
year I have not looked back.  

People do often seem surprised to see a woman in the cockpit (or walking
around the airport in uniform), and my impression is that it's even more so in
a 737 than in an RJ or a Brasilia.  I've been mistaken for a flight attendant
more times than I can count - and that's while in my pilot's uniform!  Maybe
expectations haven't changed as much as people might like to think.  
Meanwhile, it's always fun when kids come up to see the cockpit, but
especially so when girls visit, and some show real enthusiasm.  Overall, I think
the important thing is for kids - or anyone - to know what's possible, even if
it's not what everyone expects of them, and have the confidence and
courage to make it happen.  So ask lots of questions - and best of luck to all.
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
opportunities...
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
opportunities...
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
opportunities...
TM
Email Laura!
Your name:
Your email address:
Your phone number:
Comments:
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
opportunities...
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
opportunities...
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
opportunities...
TM