The Scene: A brightly lit room, folding tables with store bought cookies and paper plates. There are plastic folding chairs arranged in a loose circle and awkward people sitting in the chairs not sure if they should cross their legs toward or away from the person sitting next to them. The silence is deafening. Then one woman clears her throat, straightens her Carharts and says, “Hi, my name is Alana and I’m a bush pilot”.
Yes, I’m in recovery. I love this crazy flying job but it’s not paying the bills, and hey, let’s face it, it’s dangerous. Today I flew IFR. I fly rivers and roads in the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho. On a VFR chart, it’s mostly dark brown… Much like the color of the smoke we were flying through today. We flew into the Flying B Ranch by the skin of our ailerons. On the map, it’s 12ID; and this one is actually ON a map which is nice. I used to get an adrenaline rush, and I must admit that the challenge is addictive. But I also realize that it’s equally challenging to not only be responsible for hundreds of passengers, but to also work well with a crew and to be able to learn the complexities of something far more challenging than a turbo-charged Cessna 206.
I think we all know that this is a really good time to be a pilot. Even though I’m a lower time pilot (I have worked at Part 135 operators and didn’t go to a Part 141 school), I just got an offer from Horizon Airlines (amongst others). They will pay for my ATP, base me at home and give me a hefty signing bonus.
And why do I know this? Because of you Ladies. If I hadn’t been following the posts, links and comments on the F.A.S.T. Facebook group I would have still been tucked down in my little Idaho world wondering how I was going to pay the bills and WHY I was worrying my mother every day like this. I’ve heard a number of “Happy Day of the Week’s” all the way from Bethel, AK to the Grand Canyon to a little non-towered strip in Montana to Seattle Center on my Spokane cargo runs. It really keeps me going knowing there’s a huge bank of female pilots out there who love and support each other. Thank you Female Aviators Sticking Together for being the inspiring, honest, open, funny and always confidential group that you are. Cheers to us and let’s keep on giving it back. And huge kudos to the women that started this organization! The world is our oyster! One day hopefully, nearing retirement, you’ll find me in a brightly lit church basement, sipping from a Dixie cup, saying, “Hi, my name is Alana, and I’m a 777 driver.”
~ Alana Erickson