Hi! I’m Olivia and I’m 18. I’m from a small town in Florida. I got my Private Pilot License this April, but I started 3 years ago and there were many obstacles on the way.
I was born in Miami and lived there for half of my life, then I moved to where I am now which is a small beach town a bit north from Miami. Aviation is very popular here, we are surrounded by small airports with flight schools!
Not to be a cliche, but I got into aviation because of my parents! My mom is a flight attendant and my dad is a captain-both for the same airline. Traveling was my main focus for as long as I could remember, and I wanted a job that would incorporate that. My parents always offered to buy me a discovery flight, but as a younger and more close-minded teenager, the last thing I wanted was to follow in my parents’ footsteps. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I had a more open mind and decided to try it. They took me to a small nearby airport and there I did my discovery flight. The instructor took me over the ocean and taught me about trim, yaw, and roll and had me play with the controls. We flew in a piper warrior for about an hour. I loved it!
When I turned 16 and started driving, my training picked up a bit. My first instructor was lovely, but I had many problems at this school. I was soon given a new instructor that had been hired on a whim when my initial instructor had a family emergency and had to return home to the UK. From then on, there were many difficulties to overcome. My newer instructor took advantage of the ability to teach me something insufficiently so that I would have to repeat lessons over and over for his financial benefit. Sometimes he would even teach me things that were blatantly incorrect. I learned almost nothing in the year that I spent training with him, although I was flying with him almost every day. I was 16/17 and naive, and I should have caught the problem earlier. I was heartbroken when I finally realized that I was being taken advantage of for financial reasons. My parents had spent at least $10,000 on my training at this point and I didn’t know what to do. I thought I might never fly again.
Frustrated and feeling defeated, I took some time off to think about my options. I was so angry at all my efforts being wasted. That summer, my family took a vacation to South Africa. I had never seen such a beautiful place in my life. I was very inspired by it. I remember one day while we were on safari, a plane came in for landing on an airstrip in the middle of the reserve- surrounded by animals such as elephants, impala, and more. It was truly amazing. I thought about having a job like that and how lucky I am to have the privilege to fly.
When we returned home, I turned my mindset around and I worked for what I wanted. I expressed everything to my parents, and they agreed I wouldn't go back to the previous flight school. The instructor was fired as soon as the school found out what he had been doing. I told my parents I wanted to start over at a new school in the area- even though I had gotten as far along with my private as my solo cross countries at the previous school. I said I wanted to learn everything the right way and be a good pilot. I went to a new school and found an amazing instructor, Walter. He knew exactly how to teach me and we got along great. We flew Cessna 172’s at this flight school. I had to repeat many lessons that I had taken before at the previous school- but this time I learned them correctly. I was so thankful to have such a great instructor!
I spent a little bit under a year at this school. I worked hard to get myself where I needed to be. This involved doing never ending Navigation Logs, chair flying, and endless studying. It was my whole life. I had my check-ride this past April, and I felt very confident when I did it. I’m so happy to now have my license!
Now, I’m very excited to continue my training at Auburn University in the fall! Auburn has a program with Delta Airlines, so my plan is to work very hard there and hopefully be accepted to work at Delta. I have a long way to go, and I can’t wait to see what Auburn has in store for me!
In 10 years, I hope to be an airline pilot and I want to contribute to growing the female presence in the industry in any way I can. I also dream of doing some bush flying in Africa once I’m more experienced. I’m very excited to see what my future in aviation looks like! You can follow my journey in my next step of flight school on instagram @OliviaLeaKidd!