Monday, November 25, 2013

A bonus post from Caitlin, a Girls With Wings Dreams Take Flight Scholarship Winner!

Hopefully you've been keeping up with all of the amazing essays from all of the Girls With Wings scholarship winners - of which there have been many! 

Caitlin was awarded a $500 Girls With Wings Dreams Take Flight Scholarship Winner in Summer 2013 and you can review all of her posts made since then. I first heard from Caitlin before the scholarship applications were being accepted to ask if she could get a waiver on the prerequisite to have soloed in order to apply for the bigger Private Pilot Scholarship. Unfortunately, I had to tell her no, even though she was so close to soloing. Sadly, she then experienced a few setbacks... But she never gave up. She has since passed her Private Pilot checkride and is pursuing her instrument - you can read her own amazing personal blog, Cessna Chick.

Many of the previous scholarship recipients have submitted post-award essays, and this one just completely warms my heart. I am so glad I can be a part of all of these incredible journeys through Girls With Wings. And you can too. Just keep reading...

From Caitlin:

As some of you might know from reading my application essay and my blog posts after winning the Dreams Take Flight scholarship that I had a set back in my training right before I soloed.

For a few reasons involving: a horrible progress check, a very inconsistent schedule, and some lack of confidence, I wasn't sure I ever was going to solo. The mere thought of flying an airplane by myself made me sick to my stomach. How do you get over that feeling?

I ended up overcoming it and now love flying solo. I just needed a bit of confidence. I feel Girls With Wings helped me a lot with my confidence by giving such great support and helped me hop that hurdle in my training.

This issue arose in June, but came to a climax in July, before I knew the results of the scholarship. I struggled at the end of July with quitting altogether; maybe I wasn't supposed to fly. I wasn't cut out for it. Those were a tough couple of days for me. But a few days before July ended I gave it another shot with a different instructor and school, who would become my CFI for the rest of my training. I felt better, but was still unsure if I'd ever get to the point of flying by myself without feeling I had to throw up.

Then I won the Dreams Take Flight scholarship. My confidence soared (sorry for the pun.) If others believed in my ability to fly, why shouldn’t I believe in myself? 12 days and 4 lessons later, I soloed without a nervous bone in my body. What happened?

I truly believe GWW is what mainly happened. Yes, I had a different CFI with a different perspective to help me. I was able to fly more consistently, but I also needed a change within myself to be able to achieve this accomplishment. GWW sparked that change because it wasn't only winning that happened, but joining this community that was great for me. I befriended other winners and past winners, I had their support and saw their training progress as well. That made a huge difference. I saw other ladies with their struggles and successes, to share frustrations and joys with them. It helped me overcome my own struggles in confidence seeing these other ladies rocking their training.

I want every girl in her training to have this wonderful support system. I know everyone can't win a scholarship and gain confidence through that, but I hope through generous donations that more ladies can get such an amazing opportunity. I wish I had the money to give more and allow more girls to win a scholarship. I do know that other ladies in flight training can join the great Girls With Wings Facebook Group that has helped me so much through training and get advice, support, comfort, or just others to talk with about airplanes!

A little support and being confident with your abilities can go a long way is what I learned in my flight training! I hope others can learn from such amazing ladies I've met through this organization and cannot wait to cheer on Amber, Caylee, Kathi, Kimberly, Diana, and others when they get their private pilot certificates! I know they'll rock their check rides! 

Caitlin's lessons have been funded in part by the generous donations that people have made to Girls With Wings. The Dreams Take Flight 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. Read more about our scholarship program.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Devin's third essay as the Girls With Wings Private Pilot Scholarship Winner!

Congratulations to Devin who has resumed her flying lessons thanks in part to the generous donations that people have made to Girls With Wings. The Private Pilot Scholarship is to help defray the cost of flight training lessons in pursuit of a private pilot certificate. This scholarship, an award in the amount of $1000.00, targets those individuals who have soloed but have not completed the Private Pilot Course. Read more about our scholarship program.

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.

From Devin Ward:

Thank you, Girls With Wings Foundation, and everyone who has helped to make this scholarship possible! 

I just had to start out with that, because I am so grateful for what this scholarship has done for me. These past few months have been an exciting adventure where I’ve been able to do what I love and FLY! Getting this scholarship has brought me so close to a private pilot’s license; I believe I can complete my certification before the end of this year!!! 

I just flew my Cross Country flight, and it was both terrific and terrifying. First, I spent a whole two hours with my instructor on the ground, planning out our path. The destination airport had to be at least five nautical miles away from Centennial to be considered a cross country flight, so I bought the sectional maps and we started drawing the lines and using the flight computers. I’ve never looked at a pencil line with so much anticipation. My instructor taught me how to create a flight plan and calculate all the expected distances and trajectory by myself. This was going to be a flight I could completely prepare for!…or so I thought. 

The next day, it turned out the winds would be too strong at the airport to the north we had originally planned to go to, so we took out the maps and decided to go east instead. This time I went through all the calculations and made all the checkpoints with only a few directions from my instructor. We then recalculated to take into consideration the winds. I never knew how much math and figuring a flight plan would turn out to need, and this little cross country would only take about 45 minutes there and about the same back, much shorter than any of the commercial flights I’ve been a passenger on. I learned to find checkpoints visible from the air and measure the distances between them, how long it would take to reach each and the actual heading of the airplane if the winds were as predicted for the day. NOW I was ready for anything!...or so I thought (again) 

I did my preflight and got into the plane, went to Charlie One run-up area, made all the radio calls to takeoff eastward bound. And we were off!—and it turned out to be much harder to fly a cross country than I had predicted. 

With my maps, flight plan, and notepaper all balanced on my kneeboard, I flew east, looking for my first checkpoint…and missed it completely. There are not many unique landmarks east of Denver, let me tell you. I was looking for a little private airstrip that should have been about two miles out from Centennial Airport, and we flew and flew, and never saw it. When I got suspicious of how long it was taking to get there, I again referenced my map, and realized we were already coming up on my second checkpoint. I saw the little roads down below intersecting how I had drawn them on my flight plan (yes, I drew pictures of my checkpoints instead of describing them all), and I knew where we were on the map once again. 

Nothing looked quite how I imagined it when looking from the air, and, like real life is to a list of tasks, nothing was exactly as clean-cut as I had planned for. A big challenge I had while flying was balancing all my things, literally. My knees were not the ideal desk for keeping all my papers and flight computer. I wrangled with it quite ungracefully while I was in the air. My instructor had helped me fold everything to show what I needed, but it was still a struggle. I had not anticipated that handling the map in the air would be so difficult, even more difficult, in fact, than actually flying the plane! I had to multitask as I kept my eyes on the air around me, the instruments, and the map and flight plan. I could feel myself getting better as we continued the flight, and on the way back from Limon (the destination airport), I knew exactly where we were the whole time, and I found that darn little airstrip that had eluded me before. I really enjoyed looking for our next checkpoint and figuring out where we were on the map. It was an adventure; the best journey I’ve ever taken. I was not only exploring eastern Colorado, but also my own skills, the skies, the career of aviation, and my love of flight. 

This scholarship definitely relieved the burden of my flight training on my family, but more than that, it inspired me to continue my training in the first place. Before this scholarship, I had not flown for months; I had begun to think my experience as a pilot was over for a long while. It seemed like getting my Private just wouldn’t happen any time soon. I applied for this scholarship hoping, but not expecting, to receive it and be given a chance to complete this dream, and I am happy beyond words that I was chosen. When I received this scholarship, I started scheduling flights again. I had a happy calendar full of flights crammed into every spare hour of my schedule. I was invigorated, studying my pilot books and counting the days until I could climb into the cockpit and take a magical machine hundreds of feet strait up into the thin air…with me inside! 

I haven’t gotten my Private Pilot’s license yet, but this scholarship has brought me to the very brink of success. I absolutely plan to continue pursuing a career that will let me fly. I support the GWW mission of getting more girls into aviation, and hope to be a role model for all those girls out there with dreams to own the sky. I’m volunteering to help with the Tuskegee Airmen Mile High Flight Program, the program that first introduced me to flying, and want to show all those students how I have taken off from the same position they are in to being about to get my Private Pilot’s License. There are many more boys than girls in this program, and I want to show that being in the minority should not ever staunch someone’s dreams. I would also be honored to help in any way I can with GWW, or other aviation-related, events. I will continue to find ways to pass forward this opportunity that has been granted to me as best I can. I am eager to cheer on everyone who wants to be a pilot, an aeronautical engineer, or whatever the passion. Determination is key. Remember: even if you miss a checkpoint, keep searching and you’ll find your way to your destination. 

Congratulations on your cross-country, Devin. Nothing worth having is ever easy, so your dedication to getting your PPL will make that achievement so much sweeter. We look forward to hearing about your successful checkout!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Caylee's third essay as the Girls With Wings Private Pilot Scholarship Winner!

Congratulations to Caylee who has resumed her flying lessons thanks in part to the generous donations that people have made to Girls With Wings. The Private Pilot Scholarship is to help defray the cost of flight training lessons in pursuit of a private pilot certificate. This scholarship, an award in the amount of $1000.00, targets those individuals who have soloed but have not completed the Private Pilot Course. Read more about our scholarship program.

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.

From Caylee, with photos from a flight to Martha's Vineyard.

Yesterday was the best Halloween ever and I didn’t even get dressed up or go trick-or-treating. 

I went to my flight school to take a few practice exams planning to take my written today. After one practice test I was about to be kicked out of the classroom because another student was scheduled to take his instrument written on the computers. 

After having sat through two ground schools since I started flying in 2011, I was a little discouraged when I realized how much I struggled with a lot of the material. I started seriously studying in the middle last week averaging 70-75% on practice tests. I continued to take practice tests and study my ground school materials. When I took the one practice test yesterday I was averaging 80% over the past few days. When I finished my practice test with an 82% two of the instructors said I could either leave or just take the written then and there. I was feeling pressured, nervous and excited all at once. I was confident I could pass the exam but I didn’t want to get a low score and give the DPE a reason to really grill me on my oral exam. I decided to go for it. 

Being in my second year of graduate school I have taken my fair share of tests and exams but I don’t think I have ever been so nervous for a test in my life. All of the other tests I’ve taken in school have been averaged together for a final course grade. None of them have ever seemed as important to pass as this one. 

I began the test answering the questions I was confident in, skipping the ones I was not and taking my time to read and re-read every question. I went back to the questions I skipped, chose an answer then reconsidered and chose a different answer for many of them. At the end I counted up the questions I was not at all confident in. I calculated that if I got all of them wrong I would still get around a 78%. I am a self-proclaimed nerd and my friends all call me an overachiever; I’ve been a straight A student my entire life. I have never been hoping for or content with a score of 78%. I sat for a while considering my choices trying to convince myself of the correct answers. I’ve learned over my years of schooling that you can only do this for so long before you are convincing yourself the wrong answer is the right answer. I decided to submit and my mouse hovered over the finish button for a few minutes before I closed my eyes and clicked. 

A 92%!!!! I was completely and utterly shocked! There was another student still taking their test so I had to be quiet, not an easy feat with how excited I was. I let out the biggest fist pump I think I’ve ever done in my life. If I was alone in the room, I probably would have been jumping up and down. I left the room to find my instructors getting high fives all around. My primary instructor called me a nerd…I guess if the shoe fits! And I’ve never been so proud to be a nerd in my entire life. 

This accomplishment came at the perfect time. My school work load is the most strenuous it has ever been so I’ve been running out of time to study for my written. It is a huge weight off of my shoulders knowing that I can now focus on my check-ride prep. Soloing is said to be a huge confidence booster and provide the energy and encouragement to continue on with training…and it was exactly that for me. But after I stopped flying, this GWW community and scholarship provided that same encouragement for me to get back in the air and continue flying. It got me back to where I left off, through my first solo and long cross countries and to my written. The completion of this milestone will now carry me through the end of my training along with the encouragement of all of the wonderful girls I’ve met through this program. 

If it weren’t for the GWW community, I honestly don’t know if I would be flying again or not at this point. I am so incredibly thankful for this group and for being awarded this scholarship because Lynda and other members of the community saw something and believed in me before I even did. 

I’m excited to see where I will go from here in the future with my flying and schooling and will be keeping the GWW community posted. I plan to continue promoting GWW starting this weekend where I will be volunteering at the New England Air Museum Women Take Flight event. There I will be interacting, along with many other women pilots, aviators, astronauts, and engineers, with many young girls to show that girls can do anything! If anyone is in the area, please stop by and say hello. I’m excited for the possibility to meet fellow GWW Caitlin, there too! I’m looking forward to the opportunity to meet many more of the amazing girls who have supported and encouraged me through my training and can’t wait to encourage the next group of award winners. Thank you again to GWW! 

 Haha, Caylee! I think my cursor hovered over that "finish" button for way too long as well. We are so proud of your test score, but mostly that you have returned to the skies. Please keep us posted on all of your progress - we know you'll have that certificate in no time!

A wondrous BONUS essay from Scholarship Winner Susan!

Susan's post as a Girls With Wings Additional Scholarship Winner: Susan's lessons have been funded in part by the generous donations that people have made to Girls With Wings. Additional Awards were designated to four individuals that showed great promise and dedication. We therefore offered them $250 to help in funding at least a small portion of their flight training. Read more about our scholarship program

This is an extra, very insightful essay that she has sent to us for publication. Anyone who has been her shoes can understand her situation. We often try so hard to do good, then do better, but end up making things worse. Many of us are our own harshest critics. We couldn't fly well with someone yelling in our ear that we were or that was stupid. Yet, sometimes we have those words bouncing around in our heads. The financial pressures of trying to maximize every last dollar certainly doesn't help.

I have had the slowest month in terms of flying this October. I would have loved it to be different but I have opted to swallow the pill as its handed. This has been a true test for me in terms of balancing how often I can fly with how much I have at hand to pay and also keeping up with my college classes. I think my training at some point was suffering from it.

Two weeks ago, my instructor decided to carry out a ‘pre-mock check ride’ before passing me off to go for a mock check ride with another instructor. I was really excited because it could only mean I’m almost done. What started off as a lovely Saturday morning flight soon turned ugly as he started asking me to do simple maneuvers like setting up for slow flight. My mind went blank. That was all I needed to crumble I guess because after that it went straight down south. After a grueling one-hour of failed maneuvers (as that’s all I can call them) we started heading back and he asked me to do a short field landing. Finally! Something that I had been working on recently, that I could easily recall. I did a somewhat okay attempt but nothing to get applause for. What I had thought would be my redemption did nothing of the sort. I taxied back to the ramp practically in a daze. I could hear what he was saying but my mind was just not there with him. For once, I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy my flight.

It’s really nice to have an understanding instructor because he could tell that I was really beating myself up in my head. During the debriefing, it took all my strength to fight back tears as we went through the whole flight. Trying to listen and understand where and why I went wrong on some of the maneuvers. I’m amazed at how I did it. I just remember he finished it off by saying ‘Put it all behind you and now focus on what’s needed from here on now’. At that time it didn’t hit home. I drove all the way home with tears rolling down my face. I had disappointed myself. I guess there’s nothing worse than that. It’s easy to point fingers when someone else wrongs us but it really sinks your gut when you fail yourself.

I chose to share this moment because it has helped make a turnaround in my flight training and has made me focus on items in my life that needed to be looked into and were somewhat creeping in and affecting my flight training. I have been working with deadlines all the time and my flight training was slowly becoming like the dreaded homework. How did that happen? I guess its because of how it was dragging on and truth be told I was not seeing the results I wanted which is the certificate. and why is that? Because I was not able to fly as often as I’d want to in order to finish. I could go on and on with the reasons that popped up but honestly there was no excuse.

How does this relate to the moment I shared you may wonder? I can try summing it up in one sentence. My focus on the final was killing the joy of the ride. I was so focused on finishing and the financial aspect of what’s needed to finish that I was actually not focusing on the beauty of now and what’s needed to get there, that is the finish (which I have since stopped looking at it in that perspective).

Last week was the first time I flew since the last moment that I shared and my flying was as different as night and day. We went out again to the practice area near Johnson County Executive airport with my instructor to check if I had done my homework on going through the maneuvers and procedures. I cannot say I was perfect but I was a confident pilot who had prepared before hand. I had to push back that bad flight to the back of my mind. It hit home, I put it all behind me. But that bad flight was needed to bring to light what I needed to focus on. That is the now and the beauty of every single time I take to the sky. No matter how staggered the flight sessions may be. The now is very important. To be fully engaged with taking every single day as it comes is how I’ve decided to move forward in all aspects of my life for now.

As I prepare for my mock check ride, I’m in a better position as a student pilot. To ease my jitters, I look forward to it as another learning experience and not a ‘badge obtaining’ moment. That’s my new line of thought in terms of my flight training and I hope throughout my flying career. I am no longer looking for and working towards the final. Who knew that this flight training would be a life changing experience as well? I am coming to learn new ways and perspectives of viewing things in other aspects of my life as well. Failure would at one point cripple me but now it’s another learning experience to make me better than before. I am becoming a stronger person who quite frankly really relies on a lot of hope for the next beautiful day and what new opportunity it may bring for me. I am working towards learning something new to add to my flying experience every time I fly as I enjoy it like the first day I took to the control wheel in the aircraft.

On a lighter note, I got to tour the New Century Control Tower earlier this week and before we went up the tower we had to go through the hangar. Oh my!! The beauty we saw!! The Chinooks!!A pleasant surprise for my classmates and I as our faces lit up like it was Christmas.

All in all, I pray that my next post will be about my oral exam and check ride. I am honestly looking forward to writing about that and sharing that experience with you all. This platform that Girls With Wings has provided me with has found some new meaning in my heart. I thank the organization for not only giving me the scholarship but also a platform to voice my thoughts and rollercoaster emotions during this journey of mine. I hope it will motivate someone else. Thank you. Happy flying in the month of November! 

Thank you for sharing this with us, Susan. And don't think that what you are going through is an "excuse." You are working, studying, and training to become a pilot. That's a lot! And every once in a while you need to step back and look at the big picture again, which I think you have. As you say, "be fully engaged with taking every single day as it comes." And remember:

You. Can. Do. This.