Written by Jessica, age 13
My family has always had their heads in the clouds-and now I am joining them, thanks to the surprise that showed up inside a card on my 13th birthday. Everyone in my family is a pilot. Uncle Bruce, Mom’s brother, flies for United Airlines. Mom, Dad, and ‘Grandma Sally’, my dad’s mom, are all private pilots. My mother’s parents, ‘Grandma Dodie’ and ‘Dadpa’ fly for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. ‘Grandafather’ is a certified flight instructor. The first flight I ever went on was when I was 6 months old, on my way to the Bahamas for the first time. At that time I did not know what I would be doing so joyously about 12 and a half years later.
On my 13th birthday, 12 and half years after that first flight and many flights in between, I opened the simple crisp envelope with ‘Jessica’ scrawled across the front. I pulled out the birthday card and a navy book; two rectangular pieces of paper fell out. After reading the card from Grandafather, I looked at the items now lying in my lap. The light blue ‘coupon’ was for a dinner with Grandafather, but when I looked at the other coupon, I gasped. Written in Grandafather’s neat, slightly slanted print on a mustard yellow card, was the ticket to my dreams. I could feel my heart beating in excitement. I looked at Grandafather, and from his smile and the way his blue eyes twinkled, I knew it was true. I was going to learn to fly!
On a warm August evening, I jogged towards Grandafather’s and Grandma Sally’s home. They lived nearby with just a field, a line of trees, and a long straight grass runway separating us. Yes, I did say runway. I would often hear the sound of a roaring airplane engine from outside, and I would run out of our home to watch Grandafather taking off or landing on the grass runway by us. I longed to be up in the air with him, and now I finally had that chance.
I slowed to a walk as I passed Grandma Sally’s house to wave to her, then I continued back towards the barn. I heard a bark and saw a black bullet streaking towards me. Echo, my grandparent’s dog, missed knocking me over by inches. Black and always full of energy, Echo was a lab mix. I would joke he was part giraffe, because Echo had much longer legs than any lab I had ever seen.
I followed Echo towards the grey barn. Grandafather was waiting for me by one of his airplanes. The light yellow Aronica had a red belly; it was a one propeller plane with seats for two. Grandafather motioned me over to him. “You ready?” He asked. I nodded, too excited to speak. After reviewing on the ground the use of the rudder, flaps, and ailerons, Grandafather told me to hop in the plane. I scrambled into the front seat and Grandafather propped the engine. Then the plane started. The roar of the engine was so loud that we had to shout. Grandafather climbed in, we fastened our seat belts, and put on our head sets which helped tremendously with communications. Grandafather opened the throttle and we started towards the runway. Echo was barking from his kennel where we left him. I think he wanted to go along too.
Grandma Sally waved as we passed her. Heading towards the end of the runway, I could feel the excitement surging through me. Once we reached the end of the runway, Grandafather turned the airplane around, now pointing it towards the other end of the runway. “You ready?” He asked.
This time I did not just nod, I yelled, “Oh, yeah. Let’s go!” I could feel the nervous excitement and joy in each cell in my body.
“Okay then, here we go!” Grandafather replied. He moved the throttle forward, and we were going-bumping along the ground, faster…faster…faster…and we were off! I felt the swoop that you get whenever you leave the ground for the beautiful blue sky. I could not help myself; I let out a whoop of pure joy. As Grandafather climbed the plane to cruising altitude, I looked around at all the toy houses and yards. I could not soak it all in quick enough.
As Grandafather and I soared above the carpet of emerald green, my heart soared even higher than we were flying. I was nervous about flying the plane as I walked over to my grandparents, but I seemed to have left that nervousness on the ground. The wind was flowing through the window that was cracked open, blowing my hair away from my face. As we flew through the air I knew that I would be ever grateful to Grandafather for giving me this chance. I also knew that this would not be that last time I would be flying with Grandafather; I would be the pilot of the airplane again.
I was right; I have had another flying lesson. I love to fly, and I know that I will have many more flight lessons to come until I get my private pilot’s license. The navy book that was in my birthday card is my flight logbook-and the book to my dreams. I was nervous about my first flight, but I overcame my uneasiness as we took off. I replaced my anxiety with joy and happiness, because I love to fly. I hope others, when faced with something new, will have confidence in themselves. They should also try to let tension go, and enjoy the experience! Now my head is high in the clouds, just like the rest of my family’s-and it is going to stay there.
Jessica is a member of the Girls With Wings Support Crew and we hope to welcome her soon as a full-fledged Flight Crewmember! Girls With Wings, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization using women in aviation as role models to inspire girls to reach their full potential. We offer an hour long interactive presentation teaching girls’ groups “everything” they need to know to be a pilot, the lesson being that they can do whatever they aspire to in life as long as they are willing to break it down and achieve success one step at a time. Our website, http://www.girlswithwings.org/, has coloring pages and games plus more than 80 biographies of women involved in various fields of aviation explaining what they do and why they love it. We also offer annual scholarships for flying lessons because we believe that “Girls need Flight Plans, not Fairy Tales!” ™