Pilot Erica:

Hey everyone! My name is Erica. I was born in NYC, raised near San Francisco, and then moved to North Carolina to be closer to family and to attend UNC Chapel Hill. After graduating from college, I spent the next few years working in healthcare until starting graduate school.


I was first introduced to aviation by my grandfather, a former glider pilot and current RC plane enthusiast. Unfortunately, the advent of World War II prevented him from fulfilling his dream of becoming a fighter pilot, but he had always talked about, and loved being around, airplanes. At the early age of eight, I, too, developed a fascination with airplanes and the notion of flying. In high school, I watched countless cockpit videos of pilots landing jets on YouTube, and stood in awe any time a jet soared overhead. I loved helicopters, too; I grew up across the river from a busy heliport in NYC and beamed with excitement every time I got to see one take off or land.


The thought of becoming a pilot, however, seemed as unrealistic as becoming an astronaut, not to mention, a female pilot with a fear of heights! It wasn't until I met my husband, a private pilot, that I came to realize becoming a pilot was totally achievable. From then on, I immersed myself in the world of airports and all things aviation-related.


Then in early 2019, I started my training in a 1946 Aeronca Champ. I chose the Champ because of its low operating expenses and because I wanted to master stick and rudder skills from the get-go. After soloing the Champ and earning my tailwheel endorsement, I then transitioned to a Cessna 172 and completed my training in that. The first goal I assigned myself after earning my private pilot certificate was to add the instrument rating, which I hope to complete by the end of this year.


Some of the challenges I faced during my primary flight training (and inevitably what most student pilots face) were weather, plane maintenance, and the expense. However, the greatest challenge/setback for me was losing instructors as they left for the airlines and then starting over with new instructors. By the end of my training, I had had six flight instructors (yes, six). Thus, my biggest piece of advice to prospective student pilots would be to find a flight instructor that will preferably be there for the duration of your training (if their goal is to head to the airlines). Also, if you’re interested in becoming a pilot, whether as a career or just for fun, I encourage you to spend as much time around your local airport and around other pilots as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for a ride. More often than not, they will be glad to take you along and may even let you fly for part of it.


Life always seems to surprise me, so who knows where I’ll be in 10 years. Though I’m excited for my future career in healthcare management, I’m sure I’ll always wonder what a career with the airlines might have been like along with having the ability to travel regularly. Perhaps one day I’ll find a way to incorporate aviation and traveling into my profession as a healthcare leader. For now, my goal is to share my experiences as a pilot on social media to promote aviation and help equalize opportunities for women and minorities. There is still a lingering stereotype that learning to fly is a Caucasian- and male-dominated activity. Though this may be true, I feel we need to do all that is within our power to try and change that.


With that being said, ultimately, my dream goal is to become an air-show pilot. The first time I saw an airshow pilot perform (Clemens Kuhlig of Cheffpitts Airshows), I had never been more captivated in my life. I was so inspired. I’m hoping to take an aerobatics course this year and eventually buy a “fun” plane to practice barrel rolls and hammerheads in. Other goals include earning my seaplane rating, commercial, and CFI certificates.


I hope you enjoyed my story. I can honestly say the aviation community truly is special, with a connectedness and camaraderie that is hard to put into words, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it. I hope you'll follow along my continued flight training journey on Instagram as I progress through my instrument rating and beyond. Please feel free to message me with any and all aviation-related questions, I love helping others experience the learning process of becoming a pilot.


Wishing you blue skies, tailwinds, and safe flying.


Erica



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