On Becoming An Aviatrix: Earning My Wings (Part II)

21 06 2010

At the end of my last post, The Seed Is Planted (Part I), my husband and I, after much deliberation decided that we were going to set down our roots on the California Central Coast with the aim of establishing an architecture firm. A big reason I was okay with the decision even though I was a little reluctant about living on the Central Coast was I had decided that as soon as we were financially able I would take up flying as a hobby,  and that would alleviate any negative feelings I might have about living in a small town. Besides visiting friends and family in both southern and northern California, I had dreamed of having fun adventures. Having inherited the travel bug through my parents, the idea of becoming a pilot was becoming increasingly appealing. There were other aspects of piloting that aligned with my interests besides traveling.

Since I was a young child I was always fascinated with maps. Growing up in a middle class family of eight people, finances dictated that there would be more road trips than flying trips. Because of my interest in maps, even though I was the third child, I actually ended up being the family navigator and trip planner.  My trip planning method is still the same today as it was back then: select a primary destination; study the map; plot out the best route taking into consideration available time and resources, terrain,  plus research places of interest along the way.

Hand-in-hand with my love of maps was the fact that I’m what you would call “a big planner.” All my family and friends know this about me. I’m all about keeping a calendar and making lists. Some people (the ones who are not planners) think that being a planner is restrictive when, in my opinion, the opposite is true. To me planning is about organizing one’s time to achieve goals. It’s also about setting priorities and allocating resources. My friends are often amazed at the sheer quantity of things I do, and yet I still find free time for hobbies, travel and other leisure pursuits. The irony of it is I actually block out time in my calendar for such activities. In other words, I plan when not to plan!

So while contemplating and thinking about my love of maps, travel, and planning, learning to fly started to become more than just a dream. It became a goal. How cool would it be to have a hobby that incorporated multiple interests and aspects of my own personality? But there were some major obstacles. The first major obstacle was money. Fact #1: flying is expensive, any way you slice it. Fact #2: We were recent college grads with very little income. I realized that during that time learning to fly was not meant to be. It would have to wait until a later time. Who knew when that would be? It would turn out to be a huge exercise in patience.

Fast forward 7 years to 1998: After struggling through the early post grad years and slowly emerging out of the recession, my husband finally was able to earn his architect’s license and start up our firm, LGA Architecture in Pismo Beach in 1997. I had been a housewife, the primary caregiver of our two small children. I was working at Pismo Beach Athletic Club as both a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. Why is this important to my story about becoming an aviatrix? Well, it just so happened that the head of flight attendants for Wings West was also a group fitness instructor and her name was Nanette. Wings West, which was based at San Luis Obispo (KSBP), was the regional carrier that was contracted by American Eagle, the regional airline for American Airlines.

One day, on a break during a staff meeting, I overheard Nanette talking about how she was recruiting a local girl to be a flight attendant, and that she would be flying out to DFW soon for training. That piqued my interest, and I began to ask Nanette about what it was like to be a flight attendant. Everything she told me sounded wonderful! She said, “Why don’t you apply?” I don’t remember thinking about it for very long before I decided I would do it! The next thing I knew I was flying out to Dallas to interview at the  headquarters of AMR (the parent company for American Airlines & American Eagle). In a blink of an eye I was hired, went home, and in a few weeks would return to Dallas for flight attendant training at the American Airlines Flight Academy. Soon I would have my wings, but I would still not be a pilot.

Next blog post: How I moved from the cabin to the flight deck.

Previously published June 21, 2010 at Forbes.com “Wheels Up”

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29 06 2010
On Becoming An Aviatrix: Making My Way to the Front (Part III) « Michelle's World

[…] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)On Becoming An Aviatrix: Earning My Wings (Part II)American Airlines – 6.0 – James MeléndezAmerican Airlines to Test New Flight System.American […]

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