Getting into aviation is never an easy process,
but as a nineteen-year-old girl who definitely looks fifteen, I
always had to go the extra mile to prove myself. Here is the story of how I
finally got to my commercial licence – through all the highs and lows.
The Start of it All
Personally, I find
people rarely take the stride to start a career as a pilot unless they either
know someone already in the business, or have worked in other branches of
aviation. For me, the idea had always been in my head ever since hearing my
uncle share all his fascinating stories flying overseas. Still, I never thought
it would be “possible”.
university, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I ended up starting a
double-undergrad in Law and Journalism, so that I had two choices.
Unfortunately, even though these programs were both interesting, I wanted more
adventure – more challenge. This was frustrating because as a young girl seeing
all her friends finding their path, I felt lost and helpless.
That’s when I decided
to take a huge leap. I thought back to my roots, and what had always captivated
me throughout the years. I remembered telling my parents how “cool” I thought
Air Ambulance operations were, and always looking up at the sky when seeing a
plane. So, feeling like I had nothing to lose, I booked an intro flight at my
local flight school, and never looked back.
Finding the “right” school… And program?
Honestly, I didn’t
visit many schools around me, and decided to stay in my city in case I wanted
to finish my undergrad during flight training. Looking back, I wish I had done
otherwise, but at the time it felt like the right choice for me.
The school I started
at had an iATPL (Integrated Airline Transport Pilot Licence) program, which I decided
not to join since I was still unsure of whether I would go back to school or
not. Luckily for me, though, my instructor treated me just like them, giving me
priority on aircrafts and using a very similar flying curriculum. I was in the
plane every day, as often as I could.
I want to add that
this instructor made a huge impact on me. First off, she was the only female
instructor, and she taught me to break stereotypes. She would stand up for me,
defend me, and put me first, no matter the situation. She had me finish my
private licence as quick as possible. (Although, with our rough Canadian
winter, it still took a little while due to weather cancellations!)
After my PPL, she was
hired at an airline, and I was left instructor-less. I got my night rating done
right away, but after that, every instructor I got was either too busy with
iATPL students who had first priority, or got hired elsewhere. For months, I
was only time-building as a renter, practically only at night due to lack of
plane availability during the day, and had no specific guidance. It was time
for a change.
After writing my CPL
written exam, I decided to switch to a school two hours away. It was convenient
since my cousins lived nearby and I could stay with them, and as soon as I stepped
in, they made me feel extremely welcomed. This is important when choosing a
flight school, because you want to feel confident. At my previous school, I
felt I had to fight to make a good impression, but at this school, everyone
took me extremely seriously, and each instructor voiced their positive
opinions. To this day, it still feels like a second home.
The Journey to CPL
At my new school, I
was paired with a new instructor who had me fly every day. After the Chief
Flight Instructor saw my logbook and PTR, they understood my situation (seeing
I had no CPL training, only cross-country time), and gave me priority. I zoomed
through training, learned the ins and outs of the new practice area, and before
I knew it, I was ready to flight test!
At this point, I had
already been doing flight training for two years, and this moment was long awaited. Because of this though, I put
an incredible amount of pressure on myself to pass this flight test, since I
was way too ready to move on to the next step. That morning, I was pacing
around back and forth, my stomach turning. It’s incredible how much you can
doubt yourself even if everyone around you tells you otherwise. Now, I know my
instructor would have never sent me if he wasn’t sure I could do it. Back then
though, nothing could alleviate the pressure I was putting on myself.
With that said, the
flight test went amazing. I ended up passing with a 95%, which had me jump up
and down when going back outside to go tie down the plane. Turns out, I just
did what I knew how to do. Afterwards, I had never felt so confident in my
Finally, it was time
to move on to the final step.
Multi-IFR on a Farm
Hear me out here – In
between finishing my CPL and going on a trip to Japan, I only had one week. The
school I wanted to attend for my Multi-IFR had a reputation for getting the
rating done fairly quickly, so naturally, it had a long waiting list. To get on
that waiting list, the INRAT exam had to be written. So, to be able to spend
some of that “waiting time” in Japan, I booked my INRAT the day before my trip.
But remember the first sentence of this paragraph? That gave me ONLY ONE WEEK
to study for it! I passed, got my name on the waiting list, and flew off to
Back home, I packed a
suitcase and was on my way to this new school. I had always said I wanted to
live on a farm, so I was pleasantly surprised when I got there and noticed that
a) the school was 20 minutes away from any “big” town and b) it was on
farmland, surrounded by farmland, and the student house was also on – you
guessed it – farmland. I loved it. The first day, I threw my bags into my new
room and ran to the yard which opened on a beautiful field of tall grass. (I
didn’t know there were snakes but that’s probably a good thing).
This was the last
stretch for me – the only thing left to be done before I could start applying
for jobs. Again, like for my CPL, I put lots of pressure on myself. This school
really did get the training done quickly, guaranteeing two flights a day for
each student. If it wasn’t a flight, it was a simulator session. Away from home
and in a house full of people with the same intentions, the stress levels rose.
We all shared our worries, successes, and experiences, which led to some of us
comparing our journeys. This was good in a way, but also added a certain
competitiveness. That said, I met some people that I will always keep in
contact with, who went through the same thing as me.
The night of my check
ride, I landed and opened my phone to find two text messages. I had two very
good friends in the house who helped me push to the end. The first message was
from one of them, saying they had him pass his flight test while I was in
flight, and he already booked his flight back home. The second message was from
the other friend, saying she had already left during my flight since work
called her back. In two seconds, I was left practically alone, with the
ambition to finish as strong as ever.
The next morning, I
passed my flight test, packed my bags, and headed back home with a massive
smile on my face.
Now that I’m done my initial training, I’ve started applying for jobs
around Canada, and I’m studying to write my IATRA. My goal would be to fly
Medevac up North, since that’s the branch of aviation that peaked my interest
even before I started training. Finding a job is hard though since I have very
few hours, so I’m still flying occasionally to not only boost my hours, but
keep current. I’m even thinking of planning a long road-trip to go visit companies
and hand in resumes.
I still can’t believe I am where I am today. This whole journey felt like it went by so quickly, and it feels as though my intro flight was only yesterday. Honestly, it feels so surreal to finally complete a huge goal of mine, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds – although the journey is DEFINITELY not over!