Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Spring Scholarship Winners Announced!

Girls With Wings would like to introduce you to our 2012 Spring Scholarship Winners.

We'll start with the recipient of our Private Pilot Award which helps defray the cost of flight training lessons in pursuit of a private pilot certificate. This scholarship is targeting those individuals who have soloed but have not completed the Private Pilot Course. The Private Pilot Scholarship is an award in the amount of $1000.00.

According to the application guidelines, the essay must clearly delineate the applicant’s plan for pursuing a private pilot’s certificate as well as reasons and vision for becoming a role model for the Girls With Wings organization. The essay should also describe the motivation and inspiration for involvement in aviation. Any achievements and participation in other organizations and related events should be discussed in the essay. Financial need and how the scholarship would improve your ability to obtain a private pilot’s certificate should be covered in the essay. Alaina's application essay follows.

On an application form, I am known as a 17-year-old junior from the quiet suburbs of Kings Mills, Ohio. These words are true to a tee, but then again, do not describe me at all. To people, I am known as a wild adventurer, always ready to try atypical activities and explore unusual hobbies. Although young, I have developed two life philosophies: live life to the fullest, and make a difference in the world. I never pass up unique opportunities (which have led to some eyebrow-raising stories for sure!), so when offered an opportunity to take a ride in a tiny Aeronca Champion, I jumped at the chance—and I’ve been hooked ever since. My first official lesson was on October 17th, 2010, and the rest is history.

My love for flying actually goes back further than my first lesson in October. My father had always been interested in aviation, and for many years he flew remote control models he would build himself. Our family vacations often included stops to air shows, conventions, and many trips to the Wright Brother’s memorial. I even took my first plane ride before I was big enough to sit in a seat by myself; I was strapped in on my mother’s lap! Eventually, my dad set down the remote control box to became a pilot—a real one. Seeing him circle around in a slow-moving taildragger made me feel like I belonged up there too. If he could do it, so could I!

Flying must have been in my future, because as luck would have it, I ran into the owner of Red Stewart Airfield during an air show, and she offered me a desk job in the office of the flight school. I couldn’t have asked for a better arrangement: I work at the airport (learning the faces and jargon of the pilots) in exchange for flight time. Beginning training did not come without sacrifice, however. I am heavily involved with the school and athletics, and I mean heavily when I say it. I participate in five school clubs, four sports, National Honors Society, an independent ornithology course, the Kings High School math team, and now I wanted to fit flying on top of it. In order to be able to train efficiently and balance my new job, I took a break from running cross country and track and field my sophomore year. It was a hard decision because I knew I would be giving up another shot at going to state for cross country (I had made it my freshman year), but running everyday is very time consuming, and I needed to prioritize my time. Flying comes first.

It was well worth it though, because I can now say I am a true grassroots aviator. I began my lessons in the very same Aeronca Champ I took the ride in and learned how to fly “by the seat of my pants.” Those sixty year old taildraggers gave me the feeling that I could really become a skilled pilot. I could fly just by looking at the tips of the wings, land in a crosswind by only touching down one wheel at a time, and navigate with only a sectional (there were no practical GPS’s in those days).

I continued my training all throughout the winter and into the summer. My goal was to earn my license on my seventeenth birthday, and no weather was going to stop me (when the runway was covered in snow, I rented an airplane on skis- what a blast!). However, time is one thing I cannot really work around. In today’s society, time means money, and time is one thing I am short on. School was approaching yet again, and I was faced with the decision to either move on to the larger planes and triple my lesson cost or give up the dream before I worked myself deeper into the hole. Obviously the latter was not an option, but I could not afford flying the planes with all the fancy instruments and lights needed to meet the private requirements. Instead, I settled for a third option; I took all of my training and earned a sport license—yes, on my seventeenth birthday. I couldn’t quite afford renting the more sophisticated planes, but I did not throw away the experience I had gained over the past year. I could still fly the planes the true aviators flew during World War II, and now I could at least share my gift with others as well. My second non-family passenger was a Marine that had only flown in a plane once in his life—he left for training a month ago to become a fighter pilot.

Yes, I realize this is an extreme example and I probably do not deserve most of the credit, but it goes to show what just a small dose of aviation can ignite. It’s something I feel can be and should be spread to more members of the community, especially women. Working at Red Stewart Airfield, I see scores of pilots every day. The most concerning part is that I can only name six current female student pilots… six! Out of countless men! Local pilots recognize me solely on the broadcasts I call out; it’s not that hard to distinguish one female from all of the masculine voices flitting over the radio. Hearing another woman over the frequencies creates an instant camaraderie, because we know we are unique and have a special opportunity to converse with a pilot of the same gender. It’s quite an experience, and one that we should encounter more often!

Imagine the results if we brought that aviation spark to other women. Even if the message reaches just a few, the ratio of female to male pilots would dramatically increase. In the United States, only five percent of pilots are female. Especially in cases like ours with such a low percentage of women in the profession, just a small number of people would make all the difference in the world.

Making all the difference in the world—my ultimate goal has been laid out right before me, an opportunity that I will not pass up. Girls With Wings exists solely to share the love for aviation with the female community, creating an impact that lasts a lifetime. Whether chosen to carry on my flight training with a scholarship or without, I fully intend to continue posting in the blog, trying to encourage girls to at least look in to aviation. I really hope others will read the inspiring stories of the other female pilots and feel the same inklings that drive us to the skies. I also would like to eventually become involved in the Young Eagles program to introduce the gift of flight to our pilots of the future.

Aviation is a true life changer; it instills confidence and maturity in those who decide to pursue it, and gives people a skill to really be proud of. As an eighth grader, I was not looking forward to high school. I came from a small, close-knit parochial school; its entire student body, kindergarten through eighth grade, fit in one building, and one knew everyone else’s name, face, hobbies, friends, and family. I dreaded becoming “the new girl” at a public high school (as many girls my age would). As a freshman, I wrote a short story about flying that was published in the school’s literary magazine. My sophomore English class heard my persuasive speech about aviation radio communications. As a junior, I began my year by presenting a shadowbox of my solo t-shirt tail, my student pilot certificate, pictures, and maps. Flying has allowed me to break out of my shell, and as many already know, I am eager to share this amazing gift with peers of all ages. I am no longer known as “the new girl.” I have gained confidence in myself and my abilities, and now am involved in more activities this year than I thought were possible to squeeze into an entire high school career.

As for my future in aviation, after the school year ends I am continuing my training towards my private pilot certificate. Instead of catching up on sleep or homework, I have been up at the airport working twelve hour weekends the entire winter so that I can fly without any more interruptions; my goal is to earn my private certificate by the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year so that I do not truncate lessons due to classes again! If all goes well, as a private pilot I will be able to fly a WWII Stearman biplane.

Why such a specific plane? Each year at Red Stewart Airfield during their Labor Day air show, two females in dazzling uniforms walk between the wings of the blue and yellow biplane. It sounds crazy, I know—but I hope to join their ranks one day. Wing walking. It was (and still is) my ultimate push factor to earn a private certificate; the Stearman is not a light sport aircraft, so the hobby (if you could call it that) requires at least a private rating or higher to pursue.

However, you can only dangle off of a wing for so long. Whether I follow my brother’s footsteps into West Point to fly for the Army or blaze my own trail at the Air Force Academy, I plan on joining the military to continue my career in flying after high school. I have been accepted into a summer leadership seminar at both academies, so I will receive a little taste of each branch’s aviation programs (and what I am getting myself into!). A particular field that strongly pulls me is becoming a trainer pilot—I have always wanted to be a teacher, so what better way to get the best of both worlds than to teach others how to fly?

Aviation has allowed me to bloom into the woman I am today. I hope by sharing it with others, I can spread a little piece of the confidence flying gave to me—it’s out there ladies, we may just need a nudge to reach for it. I sincerely wish to become a catalyst for the women of all generations, older and younger, to experience the true gift of flight. You never know. Someday, we just might change the world.

And that is what I live for.

Alaina must submit at least one picture and an associated journal entry on May 31st and on June 30th to the Girls With Wings blog to share with others her training, as well as email a final essay with picture(s) by July 31st of the same year, summarizing how the scholarship helped her, what she learned and her intent to continue her work as a role model and volunteer for the Girls With Wings, Inc., organization. 

Stay tuned to read about our other scholarship winners AND DON'T FORGET we have a Summer Scholarship Program, too. Applications will be accepted until June 30th.

1 comment:

  1. Love this!! A girl who I can relate to :)