Aviation for Girls

2015

Aviation for Girls is a special annual member publication of Women in Aviation International for Girls in Aviation Day. Articles feature young girls living their aviation dreams, career ideas, and education resources.

Issue link: https://afgdigital.epubxp.com/i/742269

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26 AVIATION FOR Girls 2015 FINDING MY FLIGHT PATH I have always been a tall girl. In school I was always in the back row of the class picture. I played some sports, but I wasn't athletic. I tried ballet, but I was defnitely clumsy. While I saw myself as a girly- girl, I also always felt like my height made me stick out and like I couldn't blend in very well. Growing up with three older brothers had a big infuence on my personality and my confdence. J O D A M A T O , C A M T H E J U G G L I N G A C T They were all taller than me, very loud, and often very fun- ny. I developed a more outgoing personality because of them. I was never afraid to speak my mind, and I went from feeling awkward, to feeling like there was nothing I couldn't do. At some point in my early teens this new confdence paired well with a childhood desire to learn how to fy. I was 15 when my dad took me to the local airport for my first flight lesson. Since that cold January day I have never lost focus on achieving an aviation ca- reer. Today I am proud to identify myself as an aviation profes- sional. I am so thankful that my parents let me try something so unconventional at such a young age. The most memorable moment of my young life was the day I few an airplane solo, with no instructor. That was the mo- ment that my loud, humorous, and confdent personality met my actual abilities, and confrmed that, yes, there was nothing in this world I couldn't do. In New Jersey, where I grew up, you can't get your driv- er's license until you are 17, but you only need to be 16 to fy an airplane solo. My parents and I still laugh that my mom would pick me up from high school on a weekday afternoon and take me to the airport—in my Catholic school uniform— so that I could take an airplane to Pennsylvania and back for a solo cross-country. I couldn't drive myself to the airport after school, but I could take myself to another state in an airplane. By the time I graduated from Florida Tech at age 21, I had all of my ratings short of an airline transport pilot (ATP) certifcate, nearly 1,000 hours, and a degree in aviation management. For six long years I had thought about nothing but achieving the next milestone and pushing myself further. I had the exact minimum number of hours that I needed to try to be a regional airline pilot. I interviewed well with a regional airline and was offered a frst offcer position at the end of the interview. With- in weeks, I was training to fy a 19-passenger aircraft. I just wasn't ready. I didn't have enough experience fying multiengine airplanes or enough experience fying in simulat- ed poor weather conditions. With certainty, I know that I gave that airline training every ounce of effort that I had. I didn't complete it satisfactorily for lack of trying to excel, but for me it was just too much too soon. For the frst time in my young life I lost my confdence and found myself without a blueprint telling me what my next step was supposed to be. That turned out to be the best thing that ever hap- pened to my career. Eighteen years later, I can tell you hap- pily that everything worked out the way it was supposed to, and that I have no re- grets. That failure—and all that came be- fore it—shaped me into the woman, wife, mother, and aviation professional that I am today. I regained my confidence in myself and recommitted to an aviation career, but I changed my focus to one in business aviation. I earned a master's in aeronautical science and became a certifed aviation manager. I found opportunities that they didn't teach us about in my college aviation classes. I joined a community where ev- eryone I encounter is just as passionate about aviation as I am, and where there are so many other ways to express that profes- sional commitment to the industry than fying the airplanes. I have earned opportunities I could never have imagined. I am a busy working mom of two, married to an airline pi- lot. My company helped me to create a position where I get to innovate and create meaningful contributions to the busi- ness aviation industry, and work remotely, so that I can be an involved mom, encouraging my own kids to pursue their dreams. In many ways, and at many times over the last 11 years, I have learned that my fight path has always been go- ing in the direction that has been right for me. I encourage you to explore all of the opportunities. There is nothing that you can't do if you stay focused and committed. I applaud you for taking risks, but also caution you to make sure you are ready for the demands those risks may hold. Finally, re- member there are no shortcuts and there is always something to be said for taking the long way around—the view along the way is amazing, and it's worth stopping once in a while to enjoy the moment you are in, instead of hurrying to the next. ✈ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joanne M. Damato, WAI 6829, is a mom, pilot, and director of operations and educational development for NBAA. For the frst time in my young life, I lost my confdence.

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