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...
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..."