I just finished a wonderful weekend in Portland and the Columbia River Gorge. While driving on a back road to PDX I saw a billboard that said, “We are born to be happy. Follow your smiles.” I didn’t think much of it at first, and then I thought about the concept more deeply. Admittedly I am a notorious photo and selfie taker. If I were to follow the smiles on my camera roll, it would lead me to my family, both biological and aviation.

I am blessed to have a professional career divided in two, half being a licensed psychotherapist and the other half working in aviation education, presenting and writing. I am keenly aware that many of us have to fund our passion for flying through hard work at non-aviation vocations. But if we follow the smiles, I bet that yours would be of Oshkosh, attending a fly-in at your local airport, or flying a four-legged to its forever home. Check out some of the smiles from some of my fellow aviation lovers below, and try not to smile yourself.


Jen Toplak,  instrument rated private pilot, business owner

Toplak [R] and GoldCoast 99s

Our event sought to increase aviation career awareness and the role female aviators can play.  As the past Chapter Chairman of the Florida Goldcoast 99s (International Organization of Women Pilots) and owner of Dare to Fly Apparel, I gathered 30 volunteers pilots, including 99s members and friends of the 99s, on the 18th of February to paint a 60 foot in diameter compass rose at X51, Homestead Executive Airport, Florida.

Compass Rose Finished

Homestead Executive Jet Center donated most of the painting materials and lunch for the volunteers. We are appreciative of the collaboration and help provided by the airport authorities. We are proud of how successful this event was and we are very happy we made a lasting impression on the field, we hope to inspire many more people to learn to fly, especially women. The day was full of smiles.

Mara’D Smith, Charter pilot, volunteer pilot at Collings Foundation

This might be one of my favorite moments so far with Collings Foundation as a volunteer pilot on the B24 Liberator. Normally it is me asking to take pictures with the crew members. But when this veteran found out I was a pilot, and I was the one that helped fly him to Oxford, he absolutely insisted on taking a photo with me. He had multiple members of his family taking the photos to make sure he got one! So wonderful, and it made me smile from ear to ear.

Mike Jesch, Airline Captain, Vice-President, Fullerton Airport Pilots Association , FAAST Team Presenter

FAPA Officers Mike Jesch, Jim Gandee, and presenter Ramona Cox

I get a smile out of participating in my local pilot association, Fullerton Airport Pilots Association. I was one of the original “steering committee” that began some seven years ago, and worked to restart our then-dormant group. In the end, I’ve served as the Vice President of the group ever since. My favorite part of the job is the connections to people in the industry. One of my “chores” is to schedule speakers for our monthly safety seminars. In this capacity, I’ve had the extreme pleasure of meeting and working with a Who’s Who of the industry in my area. That has developed into opportunities to speak myself at other local airports, and I’ve enjoyed putting together and delivering dozens of seminars in the area ever since. The biggest downside is that a ton of people know who I am, but I don’t know so many of them! I always get a giggle when somebody says “Hi Mike!” who attended a seminar a year ago!

Jim Koepnick, award-winning aviation photographer

I love hanging around the Vintage area at EAA/Oshkosh, it makes me smile. I had the pleasure to run into Don Voland and his lovely wife Jeanette. Don was my helicopter pilot for countless years. He laughed as he recalled the first year we accomplished the fish-eye aerial of convention grounds (in the old film days) with a combination of altitude and a silly young photographer hanging out of the helicopter hanging on to the seat belt.

Greg Bedinger, Former Pilot Outreach Manager, current LightHawk volunteer pilot

Greg Bedinger [L] and volunteers

On flights designed and coordinated by the conservation-aviation group LightHawk I have  spent many hours volunteering my time and skills to help conservationists, photographers, and policy-makers to see from the air the multitude of impacts on watershed health, from high up in the Cascade and Olympic mountains all the way down to the shorelines of the Salish Sea.

LightHawk Crew Chief,  Luke Irwin

I’ve been privileged in recent years to fly across many western landscapes on similar LightHawk flights, from the Colorado River delta in Mexico to the oilfields in West Texas. Many of my flights have been focused on gathering imagery to be used by the partner conservation groups in support of their work. The flights are always personally rewarding as they offer my passengers a chance to gain a more thorough and expansive understanding of an issue or landscape. The smiles both during the flights, and after, let me know that the time spent has been more than worthwhile.


For much of the country, spring flying is just around the corner. Perhaps spend a few minutes thinking where your aviation smiles are hiding. And, if by chance, you find yourself at Sun n Fun in Lakeland, FL., come to one of my AOPA presentations Exiting the Hold: Reaching your Aviation Goals or the Mooney booth and say hello. Smiles guaranteed.

Seminars offered at Sun n Fun 2018

Jolie Lucas is a Mooney owner, licensed psychotherapist, and instrument rated pilot. She is the Founder of two grass-roots general aviation service groups: Mooney Ambassadors and the Friends of Oceano Airport. Presently Jolie is the Vice President of the California Pilots Association. She is the 2010 AOPA Joseph Crotti Award recipient for GA Advocacy. She is the Director and Executive Producer of the documentary: Boots on the Ground: the Men & Women who made Mooney©. She co-created Mooney Girls Mooney Girls and Right Seat Ready!© She is the creator of Pilot Plus One© She is an aviation educator and writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: Mooney4Me