An Aviation Love Story

Every dog has her day; today was mine.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the Farley house loves aviation and all that it entails. Many assume that I love aviation because Jon is a pilot. Do I love that I get to hear all about his flying every day? You bet! Do I love that he can speak airplane fluently to me? Absolutely. Do I live vicariously through his flying? You better believe it. God generously blessed me with Jon’s dream of flying… because it was my dream too.

The first time watched Top Gun… I was hooked. Not just “this is a good movie I think I will watch it again” type of hooked, but something stirred deep within my soul. A desperate longing to fly. I felt like I missed it, I craved it, and I had never even been in an airplane before! It was the moment that I felt like I had a calling. A purpose. A passion that would never die but would be pushed into remission time and time again for the next 10 years of my life.

Without question, I wanted to be a Navy fighter pilot. Not Air Force. Not commercial.  I wanted to fly fighter jets and nothing else would do. Blame Tom Cruise. Blame Top Gun. It is all their fault.

In high school, it was quite evident that the Top Gun spirit was alive and well within me…as it became a motif throughout the years.

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We performed “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” at cheer camp in front of hundreds of people (my imagination says a few thousand…and maybe it was…I can’t remember for sure).

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Carlie and me in our flight suits pre-performance.

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The spirit lived on through pep rally run-ins to the Kenny Loggins “Danger Zone”…Watching Top Gun on the way to “away games”.

It seemed to be a tradition at my high school to give group names for seniors. Our perfect fit? Without question: Top Gun.   And so it was born. Our motto was “Flying with the Lord”. :) We all had call signs. It wasn’t really an exclusive club…anyone who wanted a call sign got one. I bet you can’t guess who I was. 😉 Yeah. I know. Pretty cotton pickin obvious.

cheer

Maverick! haha…in case you don’t recognize me, I am on the bottom right. I was a blonde the majority of life… from high school on. In recent years, I made the switch to brunette…I suppose out of sheer laziness and cost-efficiency. As you know, getting one color is a heck of a lot cheaper than getting highlights. 😉

Back to the story. So we were “Top Gun”. We painted it on our cheer boxes with our call signs. We would go to a place (that no longer exists booooo) called, “The Bottom Gun Cafe”… and fly  jet simulators. It was heaven for me.

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As my senior year rapidly came to a close… I took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test…which, summed up, is a timed multi-aptitude test that was developed and maintained by the Department of Defense. After the test, you get to meet with a recruiter to discuss your results in the school’s career center.

So there I was, ready to sign on the dotted line. I really had no clue how “pilot training” worked. I had no idea you needed a college degree to become an officer. Or that you had to go to Officer Candidate School. From what I was told, you had to enlist and work up the ranks to be a pilot. haha Yeah. I know. But I was 17 and didn’t know any better so I wanted to sign wherever I had to sign to fly. I was devastated to be given a lengthy speech explaining why “I’d never make it” in the military and that “it is not a place for girls”. Maybe it had something to do with me being in my cheer outfit which automatically stereotyped me as “girlie” and “wimpy”. Or maybe the recruiter was genuinely concerned with the oppression and obstacles that I would have to face as a woman in a “man’s world”. I don’t know. He talked me out of it and left his office feeling like my dream had been taken from me. I do believe that sometimes the biggest blessings are unanswered prayers. And that day, he was my angel.

Plan B

The longing for flying had not subsided. It wasn’t something that had just “gone away”. I had to find out for myself whether this aviation thing was all it was cracked up to be. The summer in between high school and college, I took my first flying lesson.

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I was lucky enough to know a friend who was a flight instructor at the time and offered to give me a flying lesson. My first flight was to Catalina island. Although he did the take off and landing, contrary to what my friend Nikki (who is pictured above) believed haha,  he talked me through the rest. I. was. in. love. with. flying. Period.

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In fact, I was so giddy after landing… that I didn’t even realize my log book was upside down.  I don’t think it really mattered at that point. I had my first documented entry in my love story with flying. :)

Then life happened. I started college and worked nearly full time. I didn’t have free time. And I certainly didn’t have the money to be serious about flying. Flight lessons are not something you can do every other weekend and think you will remain proficient; that is just not reality.

My fighter pilot dreams just didn’t work out…so I decided to pursue my second passion: Counseling. I graduated college with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. I was in the process of deciding what graduate program to apply to…but none of them seemed right.  I would be lying if I didn’t contemplate the military again. I had a degree…which would get me into Officer Candidate School… and I wouldn’t have to worry about how I was going to pay for my flying! Perfect! Well, perfect in my head didn’t result in my body taking action.

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After a short stint as a flight attendant to see if I would enjoy (or, more appropriately, handle the lifestyle of a commercial pilot) I applied for a graduate program. And no, it was not in counseling.

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I started my Masters in Aeronautical Science with an emphasis in Human Factors. (In plain English: Aviation Psychology). What a fit! (haha…I love how my hair is different in every pic.)

But let me be honest here. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was just terrified of NOT doing anything. I felt like time was passing and I wasn’t accomplishing anything. It was a feeling full of panic…like life was passing me by…and I couldn’t decide. My indecision was my decision and I wasn’t about to let that happen… so I started graduate school just to feel like I was working toward something.

Meanwhile, I found myself in a completely unrelated career in the Financial Industry. The money was relatively better than most post-college positions…so I knew this would be a means to help me start flying again.

And I did. :)

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And I loved every minute of it!

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August 18, 2007. My first solo in an airplane.

I felt like all of my aviation dreams had come true at this moment. Was I finished with my private pilot license? No. Did I know how to fly? Yes.

Up until the point in which you solo… you are not completely confident that you are doing everything yourself. You have an instructor sitting next to you making corrections as needed to fly the airplane safely. I can’t think of a more terrifying yet peaceful feeling than right after take off on your solo. You look next to you and see that you are completely, utterly and totally alone. You can’t say, “I quit” or “I changed my mind”…you don’t have that option.  Only you can get this airplane on the ground. And when you do…

it is the most satisfying, soul-rejoicing, joyful feeling.

I CAN FLY AN AIRPLANE.

Sure, it is not a fighter jet. But I can fly. We all have to start somewhere, right?

So when people want to assume that I like aviation out of obligation of my husband being a pilot… I don’t need a story to tell them to prove them wrong. All that is necessary to say is, “I soloed before Jon did”. 😉

haha… and I’m proud as a peacock that I did. Our kids will certainly know that Daddy may fly the cooler airplane, but Mommy did it first. :)

Tomorrow will be part 2 of an aviation love story. Guess what I got to do yesterday? Hint. Hint…

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Yes. It is true. Every dog has her day.

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  • http://troyandthemrs.blogspot.com Rachel

    OMG girl, this is awesome!!! Did he get to take you up yesterday?????!!!!

    I know what you mean about blonde hair being pricey….it’s SOOOOO expensive!!!!!!! I just can’t go brunette though!

    Cant wait to read part 2!

  • http://troyandthemrs.blogspot.com Rachel

    OMG girl, this is awesome!!! Did he get to take you up yesterday?????!!!!

    I know what you mean about blonde hair being pricey….it’s SOOOOO expensive!!!!!!! I just can’t go brunette though!

    Cant wait to read part 2!

  • http://www.englishcottageingeorgia.blogspot.com Lucy

    I so enjoyed the “follow your dream” story. Your narrative is very inspiring. How wonderful that with obstacles you managed to get into the skies (LOL! your dream would be a nightmare to me).
    I loved the SA Zoo post…cured a bit of the “Texas homesickness” which English Cottage in Georgia has been suffering.

  • http://www.englishcottageingeorgia.blogspot.com Lucy

    I so enjoyed the “follow your dream” story. Your narrative is very inspiring. How wonderful that with obstacles you managed to get into the skies (LOL! your dream would be a nightmare to me).
    I loved the SA Zoo post…cured a bit of the “Texas homesickness” which English Cottage in Georgia has been suffering.

  • http://blondiesjournals.blogspot.com Jane

    This is just awesome, Melissa! You are my idol. Seriously! If I was solo and looked next to me I’d have a panic attack! You amaze me. AND, you look amazing in all the photos!! EVEN blonde!! 😉

    xoxo
    Janie

  • http://blondiesjournals.blogspot.com Jane

    This is just awesome, Melissa! You are my idol. Seriously! If I was solo and looked next to me I’d have a panic attack! You amaze me. AND, you look amazing in all the photos!! EVEN blonde!! 😉

    xoxo
    Janie

  • http://www.murphygrace.com/ Gwen@MurphyGraceHome

    I loved reading part 1 of your love of flying. I was bitten by the bug when Top Gun was king, but somehow just never got of the ground. It didn’t help that I get as sick as a dog on small planes and so anxious on big ones that I need a sedative. It must be so thrilling to be the one behind the stick!

    What a cool way to use your degree too. Mine is in Psych as well and I just can’t see myself in a clinical setting. Time for me to find something different or go back to school.

    You go Maverick!

  • http://www.murphygrace.com/ Gwen@MurphyGraceHome

    I loved reading part 1 of your love of flying. I was bitten by the bug when Top Gun was king, but somehow just never got of the ground. It didn’t help that I get as sick as a dog on small planes and so anxious on big ones that I need a sedative. It must be so thrilling to be the one behind the stick!

    What a cool way to use your degree too. Mine is in Psych as well and I just can’t see myself in a clinical setting. Time for me to find something different or go back to school.

    You go Maverick!

  • Brett

    WOW! I had no idea! That is an amazing story. I bet you were in heaven on friday:) I had a blast. Wish I ran into you!

  • Brett

    WOW! I had no idea! That is an amazing story. I bet you were in heaven on friday:) I had a blast. Wish I ran into you!