When I was 24 I was hanging out at a bar with a friend. We were both recently single and were waiting for a pool table. We put money on the table so we would be next in line and proceeded to chat up the 2 people who were already playing. We mentioned that we were planning a girls trip that summer because I had never been in an airplane. One of the guys turned to me and said “Really? I’m a pilot.”. A friendship formed at that very moment.
This complete stranger took us all flying from Greenville, SC to Brevard, NC for lunch the next day. I will never forget the feeling of leaving the ground for the first time. A few months later I told this guy that I had always wanted to be a pilot but I knew it was impossible. He told me that there was a flight school right around the corner and couldn’t believe that I had never even known how easy it would be to just to enroll and learn to fly. This information lit a spark in my soul and I could not stop wondering if I could make it happen. I was a single mother and couldn’t imagine how I could make this dream happen for me, but I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I at least tried.
I started hanging out at the parking area that overlooks the runway at the Greenville Downtown Airport (KGMU). It took me about 2 years to get the nerve to cross that runway to walk into the flight school. I very timidly walked into the office at Greenville Aviation and introduced myself to two people that were hanging out. Mike & Leslie were their names, and they were very kind. I told them that I was considering taking lessons and they took me out to an airplane, letting me sit inside and telling me some of their stories. Once I sat in that little Cessna 152 (N4862B) I knew it would happen. They gave me the business card of a flight instructor, Joel, and convinced me that he was the best. I sent Joel an email telling him I would like to take lessons from him and we set up a time for me to take my “discovery flight”.
On August 1, 2001, I met Joel at 6 o’clock in the morning because I just couldn’t wait for the weekend. I wanted to go flying the very next day before work. The moment the wheels of that little airplane left the ground with my hands on the yoke I fell head over heels in love with the airplane and I knew I was exactly where I belonged. After the flight we “debriefed”. Joel mentioned that “if” he decides to take me on as a student… I corrected him & told him he will be my instructor. He didn’t argue. I wasn’t about to be discouraged by rejection! 🙂
Just a little more than a month into my weekly flight lessons some terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and changed everything for everyone, especially general aviation pilots. In addition to the challenges that 9/11 threw at General Aviation, I had some medical issues to dispute with the FAA before I could be cleared to fly solo. My doctor fought hard for me and the FAA eventually agreed that I was fit to fly. When the time came for me to solo I practically kicked my CFI out of the airplane. I was ready and I knew it.
I bent with the wind and stayed my course. On January 11, 2003 I took my check ride and became a Private Pilot! Of course, a private pilot license is only a license to learn, the real adventure began that day.