Thursday, May 30, 2013

Amber's First Essay as the Private Pilot Scholarship Award Winner!

Amber is the recipient of our 2013 Spring Scholarship Program Private Pilot Award. Please see her application essay here and read about the Summer Scholarship Program. We will be accepting applications until June 30th, 2013. Our scholarships are funded by direct contributions from people like you!

The Sky Awaits the Soul

April 17, 2013

It was a crisp morning. The past few weeks have been rainy and muggy out. The season’s are changing and my eagerness to get back in the air awaits me. Absolutely nothing compares to my first solo or my second but planning for my dual cross country means the solo cross country is soon to follow and the first time soloing will soon have the first cross country solo added to the log.

I head into work amazed at the beauty of what North Idaho has to offer even after living here for over 12 years now. The previous Arizonan desert is nothing like these tree covered mountain terrains, 140 plus acre Lake Pend Oreille playground and rivers stretching out like branches on a willow tree. It’s hard not to be in awe in every moment. I love the desert but this area is a completely different animal.

I walk into the hangar ready for the workday, the big doors cracked and a small spring breeze sneaking in, the smell of fresh dew ready to burn off for the day. My flying gear waiting patiently in my car, kneeboard, headsets, flight log, sectional mapped out with checkpoints in towns I’ve been to and ones I’ve always wanted to travel to…. Not realizing at that time, I would actually be flying to them in the future.

I felt like I heard every click of that second hand on the clock as if it was teasing me…but all I wanted to do was clock out and radio, “Niner-Lima-Uniform, taxiing from the South hangars (we don’t have many hangars in Sandpoint, Idaho) to runway 1 for departure to the South.” My mind kept repeating it all while I was installing fuel lines on a plane I plan to fully fly one day. The Quest KODIAK. One step at a time.

Sometimes we hear discouragement from people close to us, weather it be family, friends, or co-workers. 95% of the time people are absolutely thrilled you are learning how to fly, at least from my perspective. Guess what you worry about the most easily… The 5% who have to put there negative opinions in whether they realize it or not.

What I’ve learned in all of this, is if I want to accomplish what I passionately want to do, then I’m going to truck along and do whatever I can to finish. People will say things because they are not actually willing to do it which is absolutely fine or they give excuses to make themselves feel better. Can you imagine if every single person was in the sky? It’s good if everyone doesn’t have the passion but if you do and are willing there are ways to accomplish that! Don’t let others discourage. If you plan, now I know life gets in the way, but if you truly plan, like skip a few things that you “think” you need…My other addiction is dirt biking. I usually ride every weekend like clock work. Since I started flying, I’ve dwindled my riding down to almost none, at least the traveling part which is diesel prices and of course we have to pay more money on a product that has less work done to it. But planes and riding run through my system so much, I can’t control it. But…. putting aside things you think you need for something you passionately want will pay off in the end, or the beginning of your new future as I like to say.

Ooh shiny…. Ok, Now back to the dual cross country.

3:30 arrives, the end of my work day. My instructor and I check weather and adjust flight plan accordingly. We head out to the plane and I start to preflight. She’s a bit old for a Skyhawk but works just fine for me.

I call on the radio and head south towards a town I’ve been to driving. I recognize things close to Sandpoint but as I get further away, with distractions from my instructor asking simple questions that I somehow think I forgot the answers to, I notice things are a little more different in the air. You plan for this but to actually realize it in the process is another thing. I was hitting my checkpoints as planned, but also thinking about my solo cross country. How can one not?

I see the airport I want to land on. Thank goodness. One down and one new one to go to….after some mountain ranges of course. I wanted to ask questions, but I also wanted to do everything on my own. I was curious to ask if everything was going good as we naturally assume as humans, negative thoughts. But everything was going great. I’m flying a plane, in the mountains, by myself…..(even though my instructor was next to me). After we took off from Saint Maries, we headed northeast to the town of Thompson Falls.

The mountains were intimidating. No where to safely land on flat ground for a few minutes. So I kept climbing to a more comfortable height. By the time I got up high enough it was time to descend again. Easy peezy…but still respected every part of it. I’m extremely glad I choose the route that I did. The last leg was the part I was excited about.

After leaving Thompson Falls, we headed northwest to Sandpoint along the Clark Fork river. The sun was setting and the small amount of clouds over the mountains along the river was breathtaking as the sun glimmered through. You can not truly capture the amount of beauty through a camera but I tried anyways. Idaho and Montana will not disappoint for lack of scenery.

I start hitting the next few checkpoints on time but didn’t want to land even though I had to work the next day and somehow had to wind down for the night. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that but it was already time to call into Sandpoint traffic already.

We landed and all that was on my mind was the solo cross country…. I almost forgot to stop at the fuel pumps to refill the plane. I taxied the plane back the hangar where “LU” lives and called it a night. On my way home I had daydreamed how my solo cross country would be accomplished. Did I want the same route? Or go on a different adventure? Same time of day or morning?

All I know is nothing motivates me more than the pure beauty that the earth has to offer. And if you passionately follow your dreams, you’d be surprised to find how many are willing to help you get there…. Until next time, the sky awaits my next adventure no matter how excited I am to get there.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Kathi, Winner of a Special Girls With Wings Scholarship!

We are so happy to announce an additional recipient of Girls With Wings funds for the 2013 Spring Scholarship Program: Kathi Lehman!

Although we usually provide two awards twice a year, one for a Private Pilot Scholarship, one for a Dreams Take Flight Scholarship, we on the board of Girls With Wings know that we cannot possibly provide funds for every deserving applicant that is struggling to pay for flight training. What we're looking for to make someone stand out is her ability to be a superlative GWW role model by showing potential to motivate others to see themselves as having a future in aviation.

We believe we've found such a person in Kathi.

Dear Girls With Wings,

Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read through my application. I am a big supporter of all that you do to encourage and aid women in achieving their aviation dreams. My name is Kathi. I am 25 years old and the single mother of two children (ages 2 and 3). I live in a small farm town in Iowa and have been dreaming of flying for a long time. Aviation is my passion. I am enrolling in the aviation program at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, for the fall of this year (2013). It is my understanding that the course ultimately is completed with the student having earned their private pilot certificate and instrument rating. I have heard good things about the program and am beyond excited and anxious to begin. I cannot say enough how much the financial help that you are offering would mean to me.

The essay I have included tells how my passion for aviation came about. It also tells how I hope to use it and what I hope it will mean for me and my family in the future. It explains too how I believe I can be a role model and inspiration for the Girls With Wings organization. I would appreciate it if you would take the time to read it. I tried to keep it thorough but short.

Thank you so much for offering this scholarship. It is a wonderful oppurtunity and will be very helpful to whomever wins it. Again, I appreciate what Girls With Wings is striving to do and I hope that it can continue to do it. Thank you for the encouragement and the support!

Kathi Lehman

Even better is Kathi's essay. I found myself a little watery eyed, because I don't know how she feels. I mean, I love to fly, don't get me wrong, but Kathi loves it with every fiber of her being and it really comes through:

I have sat down to ask myself this question, and for the first time, really try to answer it. Why do I want to fly? The answer comes easily. I want to fly simply because something inside me will never be satisfied if I don't. I want to fly because, throughout my life, it's been the one thing that's never changed, the one constant, the one phase I have yet to grow out of.

I don't know where my passion for flight and aviation comes from. Nobody in my family was a pilot or flew a plane. Growing up I never even knew anyone who did.

Maybe it began when my family moved to a new house outside of Shenandoah, Iowa when I was twelve, and there was a small airport not far away. Maybe it was when I'd lie in the grass with my hands behind my head, or on the tin roof of our garage, and stare at the sky. Where ever it came from, it was why I started writing in a notebook every plane I saw, the day, the description, the direction it was headed (even giving names to some of them). And why, when I attended my first airshow at that same small airport, I couldn't take my eyes off the stunt planes performing magic in the air, despite the crick in my neck.

It was why when I had my first flight, in a yellow Piper Cub at an airshow in Red Oak, Iowa (a nearby town), that as soon as our wheels left the ground and we were officially defying gravity, tears came to my eyes, unbidden, and I was glad the pilot couldn't see me.

It was why when I heard that a grandson of Charles Lindbergh was going to be at the Strategic Air Command Museum close to where I lived, talking about re-creating his grandfather's flight, I begged my dad to take me. The memory of that day is one of the best of my life, because I got to spend it with my dad, and also because Erik Lindbergh signed my pamphlet and even wrote FOR KATHI on it.

This passion is also why I started collecting 1:72 scale diecast model aircraft, and my parents bought

me a display cabinet one Christmas to put them in. (That collection now consists of 40+ 1:72 scale models, ranging from the Wright Flyer to the F-35, a few 1:48 scale models, a piece of outer skin from a V-2 rocket taken from a German bunker...and an Erik Lindbergh autograph.)

The passion is why when a friend of a friend offered to take me up in his plane, I jumped at the opportunity. He was an older pilot and his name was Gene. I remember he kindly compared me to Patty Wagstaff (I think it was because of my hair, certainly not because of anything else). He came to the Shenandoah airport in his Piper Arrow to meet me and when we were in the air, he surprised me by handing over the controls. He didn't seem worried at all, like he trusted my ability, (even though I'd never flown before!), and sat calmly in the left seat messing with his GPS. Looking back, I don't know how I didn't stall that plane, because I was turning and banking with full abandon, but somehow I didn't. I told him we had to fly over my parent's house, and they told me later that every time they heard a plane they ran outside and waved in case it was me. When Gene and I landed, he let me help him re-fuel and then we sat around a table inside, drinking coffee, while I listened with rapt attention to the old pilots conversing and swapping stories. I may have looked like I didn't belong at that table, but in all honesty, I've never felt like I belonged anywhere more. I went flying with Gene a few more times after that, and he gave me books and videos to help with my learning. I hope that today he knows how much that all meant to me.

I'm only mentioning these things because I want whomever is reading this to know that this is not a passing whim. My desire to fly and to live and breath aviation is real and I am determined, somehow, to do it.

Between the days of flying with Gene and now, (roughly a 5-year span) life briefly took me a different direction. I met a guy, had two kids, and long story short, am now a single mother. But I feel like now is finally the time to realize my dream, and to do what I feel I was born to do. To be the role model and the inspiration that my children need, and hopefully, to be those same things to my peers and other women.

I suppose in a way, I might be seen as an underdog, Firstly because of my lack of growing up around aviation, and also because I'll be the first to admit that my days in school (public and home-schooled) could have been better spent. Looking back, I wish I'd taken a more serious approach to math, instead of lying around outside dreamily staring at the clouds. But I happen to believe that if a person is really determined, they can learn and become good at anything. They can overcome any obstacles in their way. I feel that with a little work (or a lot) my math skills can be sufficient. I am currently refreshing my knowledge with what I've forgotten and working on learning what I never did. It's actually this "underdog status" that I believe could make me a good role model for the Girls With Wings organization. I hope to be able to someday say, "If I can do it, anyone can do it", and it'll be true.

My goals at this moment are to get my private pilot certificate and be instrument-rated. I also would like to take Aircraft Maintenance courses at some point (because I refuse to operate something I don't understand and have a working knowledge of). Right now, I'm not really sure what's beyond that. Yes I want to make a career of aviation, but I'm hoping that opportunities will present themselves and I will have a choice to make in the future.

I am working right now in a factory (I've been there for six months) to support myself and my children. Because of the demanding hours (10 hour days and I am constantly tired), I've come to the conclusion that I cannot continue working there and take flight training at the same time. I am more than willing to work a part-time job though. Of course, I would prefer to be able to focus my attention entirely on learning to fly, but in all honesty I'll do whatever it takes.

I cannot say enough how much I appreciate the opportunity to get help with funding this great endeavor, and also how much I support and appreciate what Girls With Wings is doing. Knowing that there is support and encouragement somewhere is more empowering than you know. I know that you will probably receive many submissions for this scholarship, and that it will be a hard choice, but I thank you for taking the time to hear my story and consider me. This help would be so much appreciated but even if I am not chosen to receive it, I wish the woman who is the best of luck, and maybe I will get the chance to meet her when we have both joined the elite "six percent".

Thank you immensely!
-Kathi Lehman

We wish Kathi all the best in her flight training. We agree that everyone needs to "overcome any obstacles in their way." So we look forward to hearing about her flights!

See the details of the Summer Scholarship Program. Applications accepted until June 30th, 2013.

Please note that the scholarships are funded by donations - so we need contributions from people like YOU to keep our program running. We always have way more deserving applicants than funds. Visit our donation page to help.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Najla, The Winner of the Dreams Take Flight Scholarship, Spring 2013!

We are so happy to announce the first winner for the 2013 Spring Scholarship Program: Najla Dorsey!

[The Girls With Wings Dreams Take Flight Scholarship is designed to introduce the world of aviation to someone who would benefit from experiencing the joy of flight. The award of this scholarship is intended to fund introductory flight training to encourage achievement of a stated goal, whether in aviation or in another field of study. There is no prerequisite flight training required for this scholarship, just enthusiasm and the desire to learn. The Dreams Take Flight Scholarship is an award in the amount of $500.00.]

This is the way Najla introduced herself to us:

"Flying for the airlines is a dream of mine and taking the necessary steps in making it a reality has been a blast. Fulfilling a dream requires visualization, feeling as if you have already accomplished that dream and following it through until it becomes a success. My inspiration for flight comes from having worked in the ground operations department for an airline. I took the advantage of networking with airline pilots daily. They informed me of the resources and organizations that would help me achieve my goal. In every aviation organization I have joined, I always learn new ways to support, educate, and expose aviation to others. My volunteer work is concentrated towards young ladies who are less likely to be introduced to the various career options in aeronautics. I know that they will contribute to aviation’s advancements and that is why it is so important for me to invest in that future. As I became more involved with flying, I made Aviation Engineering my major in college. I also took the initiative to document my flight training progress with the mission to inspire girls that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. Many times the hard work involved in achieving your dreams comes with financial sacrifices. Obtaining this scholarship would not only add value to my flight training but to the impending advancements in aviation as well."

Here's Najla's essay:

"It’s 5:15am and a 737 sits quietly at the airport gate before starting its day. I open the fuselage door and walk toward the cockpit. I then climb into the left seat and place my hands on the yoke. My eyes slowly shut and through the power of imagination, the plane automatically comes alive. I am now visualizing myself as pilot-in-command, flying 35,000ft in blue skies. Excitement and adrenaline rush through my veins, knowing that all of my hard work in becoming an airline pilot has finally paid off.

I would perform this scenario every morning, before starting my shift as a baggage handler at the airport. On my first scheduled day off from work, I took an introductory flight lesson in a Cessna 172. From takeoff to landing, I was blown away and knew I had to make flying my career. The spectacular view, the precise skills needed to fly and the science behind it all had ignited my passion for flight and continues to fuel that passion to this day. In five years, I see myself working as an airline pilot while serving as a mentor to future aviators. I have established an aviation outreach blog , which shares my experiences in becoming a pilot. It is geared specifically for girls who are interested in flying or who may have never experienced flight at all. As a pilot, I plan to continue my outreach efforts by giving intro flights and being an active role model for young women who envision themselves flying high, just as I did.

Shortly after completing my introductory flight, I sought out to enhance my aviation knowledge and connect with others already involved in the industry. I joined the Civil Air Patrol and am currently a decorated Lieutenant and the Aerospace Officer of my squadron. I also volunteer at WIA and AOPA conferences, when they are held within my area, and as an Aerospace Educator at local schools. I recently submitted my biography and contact information to Girls With Wings, WIA, and Ninety Nines to aid as a mentor for their members. I am working on my Bachelor of Science Degree in Aviation and have maintained a 3.69 GPA. And because of that, my university selected me for their Dean’s list in 2012. My most recent flight training accomplishment has been passing my Private Pilot written examination.

Finances are extremely tight for me right now. While working at the airport, I took on a second job as a freelance Notary Signing Agent. Once a network of companies began using my signing agent services on a consistent base, I resigned from my job as a baggage handler. This allowed my income to remain the same while giving me more time to pursue my piloting career. When funds are left over from my living expenses, they go directly towards my flight training. I take advantage of any free flight programs or clinics offered by the organizations I am a part of. I am presently working on my private pilot certification and in the pre-solo stage of the curriculum. This scholarship would be used towards the remaining cost of my training at Hortman Aviation in Philadelphia, PA. Earning my private license would bring me one step closer to my dreams. My dreams of being an airline pilot who devotes herself to her career, aviation’s future, and to all who have helped those dreams become a reality."

We wish Najla great success in the pursuit of her dreams! We look forward to hearing about her training.

See the details of the Summer Scholarship Program. Applications accepted until June 30th, 2013.

Please note that the scholarships are funded by donations - so we need contributions from people like YOU to keep our program running. We always have way more deserving applicants than funds. Visit our donation page to help.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Amber, The Winner of the Private Pilot Scholarship, Spring 2013!

We are so happy to announce the first winner for the 2013 Spring Scholarship Program: Amber Phillips!

[Girls With Wings offered two scholarship opportunities and we will post a second one shortly. The Private Pilot Scholarship is to help 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.]

The first thing that appealed to us about Amber's application was the determination and enthusiasm she showed in her cover letter:

Dear Girls With Wings Committee:

Aviation is in everything I do. My job is building planes; I talk about it in my sleep, promote it online, help out when I can at work after we clock out, and just have fun while doing it. I work at Quest Aircraft up in Sandpoint, Idaho and absolutely love it!! I've been there for over 5 years and there are very few moments where I'm not coming up with a fun way to boost enthusiasm at work. I've been told if I miss a day, it seems quiet and boring. I honestly don't like my laugh, but others expect it.

I hope to be the recipient of the $1000 Private Pilot Flight Training Scholarship. I worked hard to get as far as I am today and hope with after reading my essay, you'll feel the same way. The world is still old-fashioned when it comes to women in any non-traditional occupation. I've build a fun tolerance against the sometimes tough male-opinion and since then have gained a lot of authentic friends in this industry.

Since my grandpa introduced me to flying at the age of 15, I've been hooked and eager to learn more. My employer has also helped me with my goals by paying for the majority of the costs in obtaining my private pilot license. They also selected me, out of a few eligible at work, to get training done and obtain my FAA Airframe Mechanics license through my experience at Quest.

Funds were cancelled for the selected few who were in the private pilot course in our local area due to company hard times. While I was extremely bummed, I couldn't be upset with the company who had paid for almost everything pertaining to a dream I've had for 10 years. Keeping jobs was more important than honoring student pilots at the time. I will be getting my private pilot license this year no matter what since I'm almost there. 

Encouraging women is one of my main goals in life. It seems we are underestimated and underutilized in so many ways. I tend to prove people wrong all the time: not because I have to, but because I want to. My own personality makes me want to strive to do my best.

Thank you for considering me as a recipient for the $1000 Private Pilot Flight Training Scholarship. I hope to prove that I can be a great role model for young women all over with my positive attitude and determined mindset.

And now we present her essay. We think her enthusiasm and determination comes through:

My name is Amber Phillips, and I am a student pilot located in Sandpoint, Idaho where I work at Quest Aircraft Company on the production line building the KODIAK. Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a passion for aviation and an interest in how things are built from the ground-up. That’s probably why I love my job so much! 

When I was 15, my grandparents invited me to come visit them in Ohio. I was extremely excited for the visit, because I knew my grandpa flew planes, and I was hoping so much to get a chance to ride in one with him. During the visit, it seemed like all we did was talk about flying and what he had done as a pilot in the military – and that was fine by me! Finally, one day he had to take an engineer over to Kalamazoo, Michigan (KAZO) from Lorain County Airport, Ohio (KLPR). I had flown on the airlines before, but to be in the front seat with all that stuff going on was exactly what I wanted to do. After we landed, Grandpa took me to the Air Zoo of Kalamazoo while the engineer worked in town. My mind was overloaded with so much, and the adrenaline of sitting in the cockpit was still lingering. I look up to Grandpa in so many ways, and I hope that I too can be an inspiration to young ladies someday and get them hooked on aviation. 

To feed my desire of building things, I participated in a carpentry program in high school where we would build a house throughout the year, starting from bare ground to finishing the trim round windows and cabinets. We did it all and during all seasons (which is not easy in the middle of an Idaho winter!). During my junior year in high school, I realized I wanted to continue my education and enter the Carpentry Program at North Idaho College, but my mother had no way of paying for it since she was raising two girls on her own. I was determined though and persevered to maintain good grades and received 7 scholarships that helped pay for all of my college tuition, books, and extra gear needed for the program. 

While in the Carpentry Program in college, I learned that I particularly enjoyed the finish work. It was neat to see people admire the work I had done without them knowing I did it. Throughout the program, it was a challenge dealing with men who didn’t think a woman should be there, but the reward that people loved the quality of my work made up for it and built up my confidence in a way that I may not have gathered otherwise. I absolutely love promoting women in any man-driven occupation. Just because we are working in nontraditional occupations for women, doesn’t mean we can’t do the same thing if that is what we want to do. I built two more houses while in the Carpentry Program at NIC and received an Associate of Science in Carpentry Management, an Associate of Science in General Studies, was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, and was on the National Dean’s list for both years. 

College was over with and it was time to start a career. I was offered many positions in the construction field, but honestly didn’t know if I wanted to deal with the weather in the winter months. I love the outdoors, but it just wasn’t appealing to me building structures in the freezing temperatures. A friend of mine was working at Quest Aircraft at the time and recommended that I apply there. Building aircraft sounded like the perfect fit for me! After all, I love airplanes and working with my hands! Quest hired me on February 11, 2008. I feel at home here. I miss the construction field, but this job is my passion and is more rewarding in so many ways. 

When Quest gave me the opportunity to start flight training for my private pilot license and obtain my FAA Airframe Mechanic license last year, I realized aviation was going to be my advancing career. I absolutely love this field and plan on learning as much as I can. I’ve had so much support moving me toward my dreams of traveling, representing the Kodiak at tradeshows and one day purchasing a plane! Throughout 2012, I made significant progress towards obtaining my private pilot’s license, soloing on May 19 and getting the majority of my dual cross country training done. Later in the year, progress towards getting my license slowed for a number of reasons. 

In September 2012 my 4 year old nephew was diagnosed with a brain condition called hydrocephalus and he had to have a few surgeries to remove a golf ball sized cyst in his brain. Flying was put aside and funding was also discontinued, because work became extremely slow, and Quest could no longer continue to fund the flight training. They helped with a large portion of the funding towards my private pilot licensing though, and I am so thankful for that. Now that my nephew is doing awesome and the weather is getting optimal, my instructor (Kenny Stidham who also works at Quest) and I are putting together a plan to finish my flight training. 

I have about 15 hours of flight training remaining in the Cessna 172, the written exam, and the Designated Pilot Examiner fee left. This should come to just under $2500. I am working my full time job at Quest and building furniture for people on the side to supplement paying for the rest of my flight training. My instructor (Kenny Stidham who also works at Quest) and I plan to resume my flight training in April and have it all completed by the end of June. 

I am also excited about the possibility of further promoting women in aviation through Girls With Wings. Regardless of whether or not I receive this scholarship, I have become a member of AOPA, Girls With Wings and also an Associate Member of the Ninety-Nines and hope to do whatever I can to promote women in aviation through these organizations.I recently organized a photo shoot of all the women from the production line at Quest in front of our custom-painted tiger airplane on floats to contribute to an International Women’s Day event on PT6 Nation’s facebook page. I also loved promoting women in aviation when I had the opportunity to be part of the April 2013 Plane & Pilot Magazine article on the KODIAK. I enjoy this field and am excited to continue learning and showing other women that we shouldn’t be intimidated by aviation! Thank you for taking the time to read my story of how I fell in love with aviation! 

Best wishes to you, Amber. We look forward to hearing about your training!

See the details of the Summer Scholarship Program. Applications accepted until June 30th, 2013.

Please note that the scholarships are funded by donations - so we need contributions from people like YOU to keep our program running. We always have way more deserving applicants than funds. Visit our donation page to help.