Pilot, Filmmaker and Mom

My name is Monika and I live in South Pasadena, CA with my husband and
two children who  are currently 5 and 7 years old.

To tell you the truth, I never dreamed of flying a plane as a child because I
grew up in Germany where flying is a hobby reserved for only the very,
very rich people. But when I was 24 years old and living in Los Angeles, I
met a guy at a party once who told me that he was a flight instructor. And
when I heard that it only took $50 to go for a test flight, I couldn't resist.
A week later, I was looking down on the swimming pools of Los Angeles,
and I was hooked. Lying in bed that night, I thought: "If I can get a pilot's
license, regardless of how much it costs and how difficult it is, and how
crazy it is, then I have proven to myself that there is nothing in life I can't
do." And once that challenge was out there, I had to live up to it. Five
weeks later, I was a private pilot.

There was one moment, I remember, about half way through my training
when my car broke down. I was pretty much using up all of my savings at
the time to get the pilot's license, so I couldn't afford to get my car fixed.
But I also couldn't get to the airport without a car. I was in a total bind.
That's when my good friend stepped in and said: "Monika, you HAVE to
finish this. You have to get your pilot's license". He was so supportive of
my dream that he offered to lend me his car until my pilot training was
finished. And soon thereafter I ended up getting a job that would allow me
to get my car fixed.  This is just one example of how my decision to
become a licensed pilot has inspired other people. There have been many
more instances since then, the greatest one being my father who ended
up following my path and getting his own pilot's license a year later -- at
age 58!!!

I learned to fly in a Cessna 172 at Van Nuys airport in Los Angeles.  I love
that airplane! I'm sure there are many faster and sleeker-looking planes
out there, but I have never really aspired to fly any of them. My personal
dream of flying has always been the romantic kind of flying, like the
barnstormers of the 30s who landed wherever they wanted to, and speed
has never been a priority for me. Flying in a Cessna 172 feels a little bit like
riding a bicycle in the air, and I love that.

I don't fly for a living. I actually work in the film business. But I was able to
combine my two passions, movies and flying, when I made a documentary
film called "FLYABOUT." After my dad and I had both gotten our pilot's
licenses, we decided to follow our dream to circumnavigate the continent of
Australia in a Cessna 172. I had tossed around different ideas for movies I
wanted to make, and never really come up with the perfect one, and so, as
I was packing for Australia, I suddenly thought: "Wait a minute, this is
bound to be interesting. I am just going to take a camera along and film
our trip". - And boy, was I right. It was the experience of a lifetime! The
film came out great, and I hope will inspire many more people to go out
and follow their dream, whether it may be to get a pilot's license or visit
Australia or spend some quality time with their father...

You can read more about the movie and the making of at my web site

People's reaction when they hear that I am a pilot is often the same: "You
are a what? A pilot?!? Wow... I always wanted to do that..." And I always
react the same way. I say: "Then go do it! What are you waiting for? This
is the only life you have."

What role do skills in math, science, engineering and technology
play in supporting your job?
I had no training whatsoever before my
first flight lesson. Anybody can do it. All you need is the passion and the
determination to persevere through some of the challenging moments.

What activities do you suggest for young children or young adults
to prepare them for a career like yours?
I had to stop flying for a while
because I had two children. But I am absolutely sure that one day when I
have a little bit more time for myself again, I will be back in the air. And
then one of the first things I will do is take my children up with me. And I
know my five-year-old daughter will love it! Because already now when I
ask her what she dreamed, she says:" Mami, I dreamed that I was flying..."
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Email Monika!
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Listen to this audio
clip about "Flyabout!"