Even though women have a come a long way in aviation, I was not at all surprised to be surrounded by male aviation students when I walked into orientation at the Community College of Beaver County (CCBC). My roommate Natelie Chappell and I were seriously outnumbered, which may be why we found each other and became best friends so quickly. One year later, through a lot of hard work and perseverance, we are proud to say that we are the best students in our class and have earned ourselves the nickname “Beaver Twins.” We both know that we would not be in this position if it were not for Female Aviators Sticking Together. Even though we are new members, we have already benefited from the supportive, encouraging, and kind comments we have received regarding our latest achievement, which was earning our Control Tower Operator licenses. Before that, however, there have been a few members in particular who have helped us develop our passion for aviation and helped us grow into the women we are today.
Both Natelie and I grew up in aviation. Natelie’s father and my mother are both pilots, so it’s no surprise that we followed them into this field, although we are making our own paths by going to school for air traffic control, and in Natelie’s case, aviation management as well. We both have our private pilot’s licenses as well, and hope to add on an instrument rating soon. Personally, my mother and cousin, who is an air traffic controller, have helped me get to where I am today. Without them, I don’t think I would have found it in myself to pursue this career, which I have become very passionate about. I have known a few women pilots, but I didn’t know any female controllers until my cousin became one. I know this road is not easy, and that it will continue to get more difficult before it gets better, but they have always inspired me to be brave. Natelie has always had her father to look up to, but when it came to training for her private pilot’s license, the only flight instructor she truly connected and flourished with was a woman. She had several male instructors, but understandably was thrilled when she was finally able to fly with another girl, who was not only an inspiration, but a friend as well. She never once got frustrated even though they had to practice “about a million” soft field landings before Natelie nailed them. There were also some unfortunate setbacks in Natelie’s training before her checkride (like being forced to suddenly switch from a Piper Archer to a Cessna Skyhawk) and her instructor was with her every step of the way, doing whatever needed to be done to get her ready. It has been an incredibly fulfilling journey learning from our role models. We are looking forward to learning even more, and we hope we are making them proud.
Having a female role model in aviation is such a blessing in this male-dominated industry. Through Female Aviators Sticking Together we now have several female role models and that is something that we are extremely grateful for. It is so motivating to see all of the wonderful things that women are doing every day. F.A.S.T. has an incredible support system that is something that young women like Natelie and I need. Now, at the beginning of our adventure, we would like to thank all the women who came before us and be an inspiration to the women who will come after us.
~ Katie Johnstone & Natelie Chappell