Tag Archives: female pilots

Dad, Daughter Learn to Fly at Parkland

Two generations of the McGuire family are experiencing the joys of flight training at the Parkland College Institute of Aviation at the University of Illinois this semester. Dave, a Champaign  business owner and daughter Emily, a junior at the High School of St. Thomas More, share their impressions of what led them to flying–and what keeps them there.

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Dave and Emily McGuire appreciate their Parkland flight training.
Dave and Emily McGuire appreciate their Parkland flight training.

Emily McGuire:  I had never been all that into aviation as a young kid. I didn’t think it was the cool thing to do, but my dad convinced me to try an event sponsored by the airport, and I immediately fell in love with the whole aspect of flying. I love the feeling of being up in the air and leaving any troubles I have on the ground.

Flying is also empowering; it is unique that at such a young age I can ask my friends to go for a ride with me, and mean a plane ride! I think that if I can do it, then anyone else can if they put their mind to it. I never would have realized how much fun it actually is unless I had taken that chance.

I obtained my private pilot’s license a couple of months back. I took my AVI 101 class in the summer before my junior year of high school and juggled a summer job as well. When school started back up again, I was able to work with my principal and teachers as well as my amazing flight instructor to get a schedule that allowed me to make it to flight classes and get the essential classes for school. Parkland was very flexible and understood my needs!

Dave McGuire: I have held my private’s pilot license for 20 years, and I recently made a serious commitment to get my instrument rating. Everyone is busy, and with family activities, work schedules, etc., earlier attempts to get the rating took a back seat. I made the decision to enroll through Parkland because:

1) The staff in the Aviation department have confirmed their passionate and capable reputation.
2.) The structured environment allows for the focus I need to work on new skills and the re-learning of old skills neglected.

I was apprehensive about putting my 50-year-old brain in a classroom with smart, talented “young” students, but our ground school instructor, Bill Jones, provided the appropriate environment. (I can’t say enough good things about Bill’s experience and teaching style.) I was challenged and made new friends. Although not my goal, I continue to challenge my flight instructor, Don Talleur. He’s fantastically patient. My goal is to be a safe, competent IFR pilot. When Don says I’m ready, I’ll be confident that I am.

I look forward to next semester.

Why One International Student Flies

“Why do you want to be a pilot?” Many people ask me that question followed by whether my plane has a bathroom.  No, it does not. Normally I would answer, “you know, it’s cool to fly.” And shrug. But writing this piece made me think about the real reasons why I cannot give up flying.

More Friendliness
I am from Beijing, a city that has 21 million people. Everybody is in a hurry to get somewhere, and there are hardly any interpersonal relationships. Strangers never smile at strangers, and I don’t know my neighbors. The city looks heated but cold.

I always say this to people about flying: ”Think about it: If you are stuck in a 3 by 4 square-foot box for six hours, you need to be a nice person.” This is how I feel when I am at the Institute of Aviation. I don’t feel distant to anyone: the experienced check pilots, the 65-year-old student pilot, the “top-off, please” fuel guy, the Flightstar staff, or the air traffic controllers whom I have never met. There is one thing that connects us, aviation. But it is never dull because every one of us shines in his or her own way.

More Females
I will emphasize one of the pronouns I just used: his or HER. Everybody knows that aviation is a tough field for women. The female representation is tiny, and I just found out that out of the 1.4 billion people in my country, there are only 142 female airline pilots.

But at the Institute of Aviation, I am proud of our female representation. We have a female chief pilot whom we all look up to. We have girls trying to be pilots at the age of 16. This is a very special feeling for me, seeing the strong women empowerment at the institute. My family, which holds the Asian conservative value most dear, believes that I should have a life that a girl “should have,” that is, get a stable salary job and be a great mother. I am completely okay with this idea, but I am going to connect that job with flying airplanes. Even with all the pressure from my family, I never thought I would give up flying. Thanks to all the examples at the Institute of Aviation, I am more determined than ever.

More Freedom to Ask
Thinking in a second language is hard; now imagine flying using a second language. I never wanted to admit that this is an obstacle because I want my instructors to treat me the same as everybody else. But sometimes, it does take an extra question. My education until the day I entered college was “do as I am told.” If my teacher told me that a hexagon is a beehive, then it could never be anything else. This might be an exaggeration, but we were afraid to ask questions.

But when it comes to training to be a safe pilot, one of the most important reminders we receive here is “never be afraid to ask your controllers.” Now, according to Bill (my instrument rating instructor), I am his “I have a question” and “I completely understand” girl.

Aviation has reshaped my entire life. I transformed from the girl who almost settled to be an accountant for the rest of her life to a proud female pilot. The University of Illinois led me to the love of my life, and Parkland College saved it.

So you want to know why I want to fly airplanes? Well… you will have to experience it yourself.

 

[Fran Tao, a student from China, is taking flight training at the Parkland College Institute of Aviation at the University of Illinois.]