The dream of flying takes this pilot on a winding road

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Growing up in Sweden decades ago, there were many barriers between me and my dream of flying. Even though, in hindsight, they weren’t rational obstacles, they suppressed my ability to achieve what seemed like an impossible dream.

The biggest hurdle, the one I started to overcome in the 90s, was the lack of quality information. Without computers and the Internet, it was difficult to figure out how to go about obtaining a pilot’s license. At that time, the search was limited to books and tiny sheets of microfiche, which I could see through huge machines at the local library in Karlshamn, my hometown of about 10,000.

I did have access to a nearby source of information, however. My aunt’s husband was a pilot. He owned a small charter business in a town about a five hour drive, an eternity by Swedish driving standards, so I rarely saw him. Interestingly, he had traveled to Florida to acquire his certificates, which seemed impractical in my 18-year-old mind. Oh, if only I could have seen past the barricade.

My other perceived obstacle was my penis. A female pilot seemed unimaginable to me at the time. Again, due to the lack of research possibilities, I had never heard of a woman at the controls of an airplane. The two channels we had on TV never featured people like Harriet Quimby, Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Jacqueline Cochran, Lynn Rippelmeyer, or any other sky pioneer.

The journey begins strangely

Instead of chasing my dream of flying, and without further aspirations, I found myself on a twisty and somewhat bizarre path early in my adulthood.

“So why don’t you fly,” she asked. “Well, I’m a girl,” I said shyly. I had never heard of a female pilot before.

As soon as I left high school in 1989, I left Sweden to pursue my first career: I became a ski enthusiast. I moved to Verbier, Switzerland, where I worked in a hotel bar. There I met my ex-husband, a Canadian, and moved with him to British Columbia, where I worked for four years as a tree planter and waitress while trying to figure out what I was doing. wanted to do. Finally, I started college. I first thought about medical school, but decided against it. I thought I wanted to be a dental lab technician because my husband was heading to dental school. The mix of art and science struck me as intriguing and I started a program in Vancouver. But when he was finally accepted into dental school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, I left the program and we moved to California.

One of my husband’s classmates enrolled in dental school working as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines. I told him about my “impossible” dream of becoming a pilot.

“So why don’t you fly,” she asked. “Well, I’m a girl,” I said shyly. I had never heard of a female pilot before. She told me that Delta had female pilots. It was all I needed to hear.

I didn’t even take a demonstration flight. I just got started. I researched all the flight schools at the local airport, Santa Monica Municipal Airport (KSMO), and chose the largest one, Justice Aviation. While working full time, I got my private certificate in about six months, quit my job at USC, and started working at flight school.

With complete concentration, I went through my notes. My instructor was also pursuing a career in air transport. During a lesson, he looked me straight in the eye while giving me some very serious advice.

“When it comes time to go for an interview, you have to watch the game. Wear a uniform. All they would need to do to hire you is put the shoulder pads on your shoulders. I took my instructor’s advice very literally and bought a Van Heusen pro pilot shirt.

In the early 2000s, most businesses required 1,000 hours, of which 100 were in multi-engine airplanes. I approached those numbers and sent my application to a regional airline on September 10, 2001. Most people wouldn’t remember the exact date they applied for a job, but it ended. for being extraordinarily memorable.

History lifts a barrier

The events of September 11 affected most people in aviation – and outside of aviation – in ways we could never have predicted. That day, my dreams of becoming an airline pilot were crushed alongside the buildings of the World Trade Center.

Needless to say, my application for the airline was unsuccessful and my friends who applied and were hired lost their training dates. Those who had just started were put on leave. I was lucky. At least I had my job as an instructor. And I kept the Van Heusen shirt.

Before September 11, I had no idea of ​​the incredible careers that existed in general aviation. I found opportunities I could never have dreamed of. In addition to teaching, which I absolutely loved, I had the chance to sell and demonstrate airplanes straight out of the Liberty Aerospace factory in Melbourne, Florida, and Cessna Aircraft Co. in Wichita, Kansas. I have visited small airports across the country and have spent hundreds of hours flying solo over mountains, deserts, oceans and agricultural fields.

I was fortunate enough to own two planes which allowed me to visit remote places where it would have taken too long to get by car. And thanks to my amazing work at FLYING, I’ve flown a long list of planes, from two-seater taildraggers to jets. Best of all, I have met a lot of amazing people along the way. I have no blood relatives on this side of the pond, but I have my family of airmen. I really love general aviation and after more than two decades that love has not faded.

The shirt always in shape

But the dream of flying for an airline kept bothering him. The incessant discussions about the driver shortage and quick upgrade times made me apply again. I knew the Women in Aviation conference would be held in Long Beach, Calif. In 2019, and I applied in time to have my interview on the show. The professional pilot’s shirt that I had bought almost 20 years ago was still in its plastic packaging. Ceremoniously, I unwrapped the plastic and tried it on. Adapt it. I interviewed a female pilot from Phoenix, and we hit it off. To my amazement, I got hired three days later.

Now my life is filled with the best of both worlds in civil aviation: I can fly passengers in a Bombardier CRJ, and I can still fly my Mooney, write for this legendary magazine, and spend time with my GA family. If my 18 year old self had had a crystal ball, she would never have believed the prediction.

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