A flight training inspiration

Social Media Editor and student pilot Benét Wilson last blogged about moving ahead with training even when the weather is bad.—Ed.

One of the best parts of my job as the editor of the eFlightTraining newsletter and AOPA’s social media editor is that I get to read and report on great stories of how AOPA members got their private pilot certificates.

I learned about Brenda Nelson’s unique story via our Facebook fan page, when I was soliciting photos for #ThrowbackThursday. Here’s what she posted:

“Three years ago, my boyfriend was diagnosed with multiple myeloma bone cancer. I had always wanted to achieve getting a pilot’s license. He lives six hours away in Chicago. He was so sick he couldn’t make the trip to Southwest Iowa [where Nelson lives] anymore. So I drove there every three weeks. I [also] started lessons and studied late into the evenings. I kept my full-time job and worked my 3 1/2 acres and achieved my dream. My boyfriend is now in remission and I took him flying. It was because of his illness and willingness to live that gave me the inspiration to fly!!!!”Brenda Nelson

Who wouldn’t be inspired by that story? Nelson said she’s wanted to learn to fly since she was in eighth grade. Her oldest brother went to the Spartan School of Aviation and was a few hours away from getting his pilot certificate. “He got married and never pursued it. My parents were farmers and there was never extra money to do anything like this, which can be cost prohibitive if you don’t have the financial backing,” said Nelson.

Nelson said that after her boyfriend was diagnosed with cancer, she decided if he could make it through the treatments, she could get her private pilot certificate. “So I called my local FBO, Atlantic, and told the owner I wanted to get my certificate. He gave me a book and I started in October 2011,” she said. “I took a few lessons and I was hooked. I knew I had time at home and at the hospital to study for ground school.”

For the next year when the time and money allowed, Nelson “picked away” at her flight lessons. “I put aside $285 every two weeks to pay for my training,” she said.

“I soloed in the spring of 2012 and got my certificate in October 2013.  After that, my boyfriend got better and he’s now in remission,” said Nelson. “I took him for a flight in November, and he couldn’t believe it. It was really cool.”

Nelson credits help from family and friends in helping achieve her dream of becoming a pilot. “My parents, who are in their late seventies, came and helped by watching my house and dog when I was making the regular six-hour drive to Chicago. There were also three people in my office who helped out so I could be gone,” she said. 

The biggest challenges are time and money, said Nelson. “I see people who don’t have anything to push them to get their certificate,” she said.  “If you don’t have that, it’s tough. I’d get AOPA magazines and seeing those articles inspired me.”—Benét Wilson

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