I can hardly believe it has been ten years – the best 10 years of my life – since I started flight training on September 14, 2002.
Although my love for flying started at a much earlier age… when I was just a toddler… it wasn’t until 2002 that I was able to start flight training. Since then, flying and general aviation have been a huge part of my life, both professionally and personally.
It was during my early ages (1-3 years old) that I used to ride in airline cockpits while traveling back and forth between the Canary Islands where I was born and Soria (both in Spain) where most of my family resided. Back in those days, airline cockpits did not have a door and, if they did, they used to stay open and/or unlocked. My parents would ask the flight attendants for permission to visit the cockpit enroute and, more often than not, I would end up riding in the cockpit of the Iberia aircraft for most of the flight. I loved it! I had no idea how airplanes flew but the result was exciting and fun and all those lights and switches in the cockpit, not to mention the view, had me amazed. I remember the pilots were always very nice and accommodating. I was always full of questions, questions typical of a toddler – What’s this? What does this do? Can I touch this? I got the “aviation bug” very early on and it was from that point on that “I knew I myself had to fly” (Amelia Earhart).
Ever since then, I always told my parents I wanted to fly. I was one of those kids who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grow up. My parents thought I would change my mind, but I didn’t. I was willing to become a flight attendant if my dream of flying could not be realized, just to be able to be in an aircraft and fly; however, seeing that I was very stubborn and persistent, my parents started looking at the possibility of moving out of the country to pursue my dreams of flying. Flying in Spain is very expensive and impossible for my parents as teachers to finance.
Then, in 2001, the perfect opportunity came along. My parents both found jobs as teachers in Houston, Texas and the family moved. We could have moved to any country but we chose the States because 1) I needed to learn English as the international language for aviation, 2) this country has the best aviation system in the world, and 3) learning to fly in the U.S. is affordable compared to other countries.
During our first year in the States, I was busy enough learning English and completing two grades (10th and 11th) in one year (yeah, they pushed me back a grade because I could not speak English). I was also busy researching how to start flying, where to go, how to do it, where to find scholarships…. all the typical questions a future student pilot has. During my research, I found Ross Shaw Sterling High School, a H.S. in Houston’s Independent School District (ISD) with an aviation magnet program. I could hardly believe what I was reading… a H.S. with a program that would allow me to start flight training at no cost. Sign me up, I said. My dad immediately drove me to the school to talk with the program’s teacher, Mr. Roger Thompson. In August 2002, I started my senior year at Sterling after a lot of anticipation and on September 14, 2002, as soon as funding was available and I had some ground school under my belt, I started flight training =) My first flight was with a German flight instructor who, like me, had moved to the U.S. to learn to fly. We shared lots in common and I remember him pushing the envelope a little bit during my first 0.8 hour flight in a Cessna 152 around Ellington Field (EFD) to see if I had “what it takes.” I wanted more and more.
Flying has been everything for me since I first flew. Like most people, I feared my first solo a little bit and had a couple of bad flight instructors and examiners along the way. Those experiences only made me stronger and pushed me to achieve my goals that much more. I had nothing but great support from my family (although only a distant cousin is a pilot and half still think I’m crazy ), close friends and many people in the aviation community. I had great mentors, motivators, and supporters along the way and I can’t thank them enough. I share my 10th flying anniversary with all of you. I especially want to thank my parents for putting up with me, moving here for me and my sister (not a simple task, I must say), providing me with all the remaining financial support scholarships didn’t provide, and just for always being there when I need them. I feel like Mr. Thompson, Sterling’s former aviation teacher, was really the one that got me started and opened all doors for me. I also want to thank Dr. Margaret Watson and Shari Frisinger for their unconditional support and all that I learned from them when we served on the board of a local aviation non-profit. Keith Dunlap also deserves an award for refining my landings, being very picky, and getting me through my instrument, commercial and most of my CFI training.
I also wish all those pilots that took me in and entertained me during those flights as a kid would now know what they did to me by introducing me to aviation. None of them know how important their interaction with me was by sharing a passion, a hobby, a career. I wish I could tell them but, unfortunately, I do not know their names, their e-mails, their phone numbers…
My own experience is the reason why I try to engage with kids and 100% support any type of activity involving kids and aviation. Taking a kid up flying might just be another flight or another hour on the logbook for us; however, for that kid, it could be a life-changing experience and their first connection with general aviation. Keep that in mind and try to keep in touch with them as best as you can.
Like most pilots, I could go on and on and on about flying, how much I love flying, my first solo, the first time in an open cockpit, blah, blah, blah… but I’ll close by saying that I have had an absolute blast flying land based airplanes during the last century, but in the coming months, I am going to finally go for an “airplane single-engine sea” endorsement as well. I am looking forward to it. If you have any suggestions for me, please send them my way.
I cannot wait to see what else the next decade has in store for me… =)