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!

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