Suits, but not Pant Suits

Recently, I was asked about the significant increase in male attendance at the Women in Aviation conference. From my perspective as a male person and also an active volunteer, I had several things in mind— and it was always my intention to post about conference, too. I became involved with my school’s Women in Aviation chapter years ago, because I value diversity and fight for equality. When I became president, my typical spiel was “No, I’m not a woman, but I do support women in aviation.” It seems to me that women have more fun with aviation than men. Furthermore, as a member of the LGBT community, I find it imperative that marginalized demographics, especially those of which involved in aviation, band together in an effort to promote their demographic.

Aviatrix Minnie Mouse!

I reached out several years ago to the writing staff at WAI, and I asked them if they needed any assistance at conference— what a better way to combine my two passions! They couldn’t have been more thrilled, and I was thrown into the ring to spotlight collegiate aviators. 

Because egos are often inflated in aviation (I mean, let’s be serious. Flying airplanes is pretty cool!), we lose sight of our other talents and abilities. And when we all come together for conference, we can use these different parts of our identities to enrich the overall experience. Most organizations of which I am a part struggle to find and retain volunteers. It takes people power (not just MANpower) to accomplish a huge feat of corralling 4,000 attendees. 

But I was dismayed by the number of men jumping on the bandwagon. It was obvious why they were at conference. Someone, somewhere, told them “Oh, you have to go to WAI. Everyone is there.” And it’s true! The best of the best and the who’s who of aviation attend this conference.

It’s exciting that our industry is experience growth. Future professional pilots like myself are in a great position for a great career. Just a few years ago, it was easy to walk up to the Delta booth and shoot the breeze, maybe turn in a resume for an internship, and walk away to the next booth. But this year, I had to navigate through endless lines of applicants, mostly male, and couldn’t get a word in edgewise to vendors. It was frustrating.

A source of mine, close to a large airline, said that they were sorting resumes by the applications based on years of membership with Women in Aviation— I praise that wholeheartedly. The question that often came to me as I saw the hustle and bustle of suited-up men was, “What do they contribute to the organization?” With my positive outlook, I can only hope that these men are truly joining for the cause and not riding on the coattails of many magnificent women to score employment. But the last thing I want is for this formidable organization to turn into that which aviation is already— a good ol’ boys club. 

And I’m not going to police every male member of Women in Aviation. So long as you can fight the good fight of putting more women in the flight deck, welcome aboard.

Disclaimer: This is my opinion based solely on my experience at the WAI 2014 conference. In no way does it reflect the opinions of WAI as an organization. 

The Immediate Future

Great Falls sectional

It’s staggering to think that in just six months, I will be a college graduate.

The normal trajectory of a college student begins with a blind eye to their life plan and ends with a succinct idea of their career plans. But mine couldn’t be more the opposite.

When I came to university, I knew exactly where I wanted to be: a captain at Southwest Airlines. Such a lofty goal for an 18 year old.

But now, just three short years later that have, literally, flown by, I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Of course, I’m not shying away from that first goal, but I’m more aware of the vast opportunities of what aviation can offer. The problem is that there are too many options.

Ever since I’ve lived abroad, something wants to take me back to Europe. How would I combine my degree in Aviation with an international market that is highly competitive?

I also feel stuck. When I graduate, I will have most likely obtained my certified flight instructor rating, a position that will be needed over the next few years of a pilot shortage. And it is an excellent way to build hours for the highly regarded interview process at a regional airline.

Is that what I want to do? Where would I want to teach? I could go anywhere— East coast, Left coast, pick a place in between.

What if I did the cliche move to New York and be a writer? Or even a yoga instructor?

Once when I was 17, I looked for a job in my hometown. Almost nowhere was hiring, save for a few places to which I applied, but I was never called. But then I found out that Goodwill was accepting applications. I promptly filled out the essentials and submitted them to a manager. She looked at me with a smirk on her face as if to say, “Why in the hell is he applying here?” And that’s exactly how I feel. Too qualified for any job, but under qualified for the big leagues.

I try to simplify the situation by asking myself an easy question: what would make me happy? I would enjoy flying and getting paid for it. I would enjoy traveling the world for next to nothing. I would enjoy writing and sharing my experiences. I would enjoy a modest abode in a nice city with a dog and a partner to greet me when I walk through the door.

So the last few answers aren’t exactly attainable just yet, but I’m open to what the world has to offer. I hereby surrender myself to the Universe and embrace what is.

Childhood Dream

“It has always been my dream to fly.”

I’m often prompted with this upon someone’s discovery that I’m a pilot. After I respond with, “It’s pretty fantastic” or something of the like, I encourage them something else.

Do it.

There’s only one way to become a pilot, and that is to start flying. But it costs too much! I don’t think I’m smart enough! Please bore someone else with your…excuses. You have not lived until you’ve experienced a crisp early morning with a graceful departure, or cruising into a metro area shining brightly at night— until you’ve seen the face of a friend who trusts you enough to burn holes through the sky for naught, don’t give me excuses.
Final for 20 at KHFD Here are some ways to get started:

  • Go on a discovery flight. Your local airport probably has a flight instructor sitting around, waiting for you to  hop in. He or she might explain a few basic things, but mostly it’s just to get a feel for flying. The flight will last approximately a half hour or so and shouldn’t be terribly expensive.
  • Be a bum at the airport. Hanging around airports is the best way to meet people; pilots are egotistic and love to brag about their airplanes, so why not schmooze?
  • Don’t be afraid of finances. Yes, flying is expensive. But most FBO’s (fixed based operators) are very flexible— I once paid off my balance at an airport by landscaping and odd jobs (it’s kind of neat to spray weeds on the side of a runway. Not glamorous, but neat).
  • In this day of technology, there is way more information on flying online than ever before. The FAA even publishes the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) for free in PDF format— as well as the Airplane Flying Handbook and a multitude of other resources. It may not be the most savory reading, but it’s free and accessible!

And after your brain hurts from aerodynamic concepts and common procedures, roll on over to and drool to beautiful metal.

I’ll leave you with this: aviation is a very small community, one that supports everyone involved. Someone will find a way for you to defy gravity, but only if you want it more than anything. Once you join the rank of supreme beings— pilots —you can continue the tradition of paying it forward.


Blue skies!

For the FAA publications in free PDF format, follow this link to download copies of the PHAK, AFH, and more!