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.


  1. Well done remember no one can take your dream from you. I know how you felt and are feeling in an industry that is still bias towards women flyers. I went through some of the same experiences. At, present I am in the path of establishing an airline that will provide air transport to the religious community. Don't give up and I hope one day soon we will meet

    Dr. Collins

  2. Keep up the good job. I know how you feel being in an industry where men second guess your actions. I went through similar experiences and now I am in the process of launching a church based airline that will provide air transport to the religious community.

  3. Amber Phillips6:28 PM

    Thanks so much for the support!! I'm so thrilled and honored to have received this funding! And can't wait to help out where I can with Girls With Wings. All my friends and family are so happy as am I of course. Fly on!