Friday, April 12, 2013

The Cereal Box Interview

Recently I was asked to do an interview for a national website and answered the following questions. Unfortunately, I neglected to read the release they wanted me to sign until I  after I spent time typing this all up. Since the series they were promoting was being sponsored by a major food manufacturer, I would have had to give up all rights to my words and photos so that they could be used "in perpetuity" and "in any manner" by this company which shall remain nameless. So I declined, which might hurt the chances of letting others know about Girls With Wings, but at least I can share with you my thoughts here.

1.       What’s the biggest challenge you’ve taken on? What inspired you to take on this challenge? How did you feel when you accomplished it?

It’s funny that I was just reflecting on this today in the sense that life would be pretty boring if we only did what we KNOW we could do. If we add to that the things we THINK we could do, it would make life more interesting for sure, but what if we were to try the things we thought we MIGHT be able to do. Or better yet, might NOT be able to do? That we might truly live!

I have always been motivated by my belief that life is short and we owe it to ourselves to try as many things as we can while we are on this earth. Add to that my stubborn streak and the propensity of some people to tell me I couldn’t or shouldn’t, and you have the fuel that drives me to take on numerous challenges.

The first challenge I had was applying for Initial Entry Rotary Wing Training in the US Army when someone said it was the hardest branch to be assigned. I showed up without knowing the first thing mechanical or aeronautical, yet there I was learning to fly helicopters. The training was made much more difficult by the military environment that, back in 1993, embraced the “if the student isn’t understanding, yell louder” theory of instruction. 

But I persevered, mostly because of a [relatively] friendly flight instructor that took me aside to ask me, “What makes you so special?” I was stumped at the point of his query until he continued, “What makes you so special that ALL of these other people have learned to fly the Huey but you’re so special you cannot?” Crazy reverse psychology, I know, but it worked. And to this day one of my favorite quotes is from Henry Ford, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.”

And even though I got my wings nearly 20 years ago now, it still has the power to influence my thinking. Hey, if you can hover a helicopter, you can do anything right?

2.       What goal you're trying to achieve right now? How do you plan to achieve this goal?

Currently I am training to be an Airbus Simulator Instructor for a major airline. I have completed many “ratings” or become qualified to fly many different aircraft, for many different companies under many different conditions since the Army’s flight school – even taught people to fly myself (albeit with NO yelling). But this training has been far more difficult than any I’ve done since. And I still have to remind myself that I can do it because sometimes the depth and breadth of information I have to know well enough to teach others to fly an airplane I’ve never flown myself is somewhat daunting. But I’ve never been a quitter.

A parallel challenge I’ve taken on has been founding a nonprofit, Girls With Wings, to use women in aviation as role models to inspire girls to achieve their full potential. Only 6% of licensed pilots are women, and there is no reason that women cannot be as accomplished in the aviation fields as men. But not all women are motivated by a challenge like me, and we want to encourage more girls and women to have an interest in flying.

I have a degree in history and a pilot’s license, neither of which qualify me for nonprofit management. But I do have a passion for what I do.  Along the way I probably made more mistakes than I’d care to count, but today Girls With Wings is a nationally recognized organization that has thousands of supporters and is giving away thousands of dollars in flight training scholarships. And most importantly, we’ve been able to reach out to countless girls and women to have dreams of flight – no matter to which goal they may aspire.

3. What will you do when you succeed?  

Look for the next challenge.