I was born and raised in Southern California and spent much of my childhood in the backseat of an airplane while my dad taught people how to fly. From then on I knew that I loved flying and wanted to be around aviation for the rest of my life.
After months of "critiquing" my dads students and begging to take their last landing at the conclusion of the lesson, my dad started to give me my own flight lessons at seven years old.
In 1994, at the ripe old age of nine, I broke the world record set by Vicki Van Meter for Youngest Female Pilot to fly coast to coast. My dad was my flight instructor, and to this day that flight was the proudest and most treasured experiences of my life. I feel so lucky to have a dad who believed and encouraged me, and my love for flying. Tragically in 1996, eight year old Jessica Dubroff was attempting to break my record and crashed shortly after takeoff in Cheyenne Wyoming. This accident led to the passing of the Child Safety Act, which prohibits young kids from setting and breaking flying records. In my humble opinion her age was not a cause for this accident. It was the decision made by her Instructor/PIC to takeoff in that weather. I feel that it is so unfortunate that my record will never get challenged or broken by another young kid bit by the "aviation bug". I would much rather my future children strive for something positive like that, than mimic some of todays celebrities as if their behaviors or accomplishments are something to admire.
I was diagnosed at the age of three with Aortic Insufficiency, aside from annual cardiology check ups, I was a healthy active kid who loved playing baseball and basketball and never had any restrictions or complications. Although most kids with Aortic Insufficiency will eventually need surgery, mine came more as an emergency when I contracted endocarditis. December 26, 2003 I underwent emergency open heart surgery and received two heart valves for Christmas. Six months post op, I walked into my Aviation Medical Examiner (AME) with all the current required cardiac tests and letters from my cardiologists, in attempt to get my third class aviation medical. I was told that because I had "TWO" valves replaced I was disqualified. I appealed my case to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doctors in Oklahoma hoping they would come to the same conclusion as my cardiologists, my heart and new valves were in great condition and I had absolutely ZERO restrictions for flying. I received my FAA denial, immediately appealed it all the way to the NTSB, all to be told that they currently allow only single valve replacement, double valve replacement is an automatic denial. They didn't even review my medical records. I felt crushed. I had been working on my Associates degree in Aircraft Commercial Pilot and now all of this was null and void. No medical means no solo, and no pilot license.
Over the last 10 years I have been determined to stay in the field of aviation. It is my passion! I still flew a lot with my dad and boyfriend, also a pilot. I completed my bachelors degree in Aviation Management and worked as the Assistant and Airport Manager at my home airport of Ramona, Ca. On the side I also worked as a Corporate Flight Attendant. Although I love being around airplanes and airports, I want to FLY! I am a huge advocate for General Aviation. I feel it is so important that communities realize the unique gem they each have at their local airports. I miss the pre- September 11 days when people felt welcome to come look at the airplanes. Now there are big fences even at the smallest airports. I have met so many incredible individuals from all walks of life who all have the same love for flying as me.
Back to the heart, all tissue heart valves have to be changed every 8-10 years or so. In May 2013 I had my second open heart surgery and switched out my cow/pig valves (Aortic and Mitral) to two (bovine) cow valves... No, I don't "moo", and yes, I still eat steak.
Before this surgery I heard some incredible news from a local Ramona pilot. He read an article in AOPA magazine that the FAA started to review special issuance for DVR, double valve replacements. I was so emotional and motivated to recover ASAP and get my butt back in the air. In March I applied again for a third class medical and after FIVE months of waiting anxiously, I received my FAA special issuance third class medical!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is my story of a long awaited dream to earn my pilot license. I have decided to document my journey through my training. This is my first blog. If you love aviation like me, please join me for my next adventure with my CFI aka Dad, www.jimmycartersflightschool.com!!!
Also check out my feature in Flight Training Debrief: http://flighttraining.aopa.org/magazine/2012/May/debrief.html" target="_blank">http://flighttraining.aopa.org/magazine/2012/May/debrief.html</a>
(I went to the dark side for a while, now I'm back to my blonde roots...haha)