I started flying in 1990 as an occasional fixed-wing transport nurse for San Jan Regional Air Care to make extra money for graduate school. I was also working in an emergency department in Farmington, New Mexico. A few years after I started doing transports in Cessna 414 and a Beech king Air, I was recruited to fly rotor-wing transports full time with Air Care.
Without hesitation, I can say it was one of the best jobs I ever had working for the best boss I ever had. Air Care usually staffed nurse-paramedic teams. All the paramedics were extreme outdoor sportsmen who did things like heli-skiing, and ice climbing. I owe my life to them, and the pilots that got us where we needed to go. There was one flight that involved me riding a horse. That picture is still being held for blackmail by the manager at Air Care!
For those of you who knew Josh Brehm, I met him while I was still at Air Care. I continued to fly with medical transport services off and on until 2006. Little did I know how different the pilot’s perspective was, even though I often rode back from transports in the front seat of whatever aircraft we were in. Josh and I often talked about me taking flying lessons, and we got in a few. After Josh’s death, EAA 1423 looked after me, and I got to know many of the members better than I had before.
In January of 2012, I decided to go to ground school at Dillon’s Aviation. Taft Stallings from EAA 960 signed me up for the ground school and then passed me off to another instructor, Al Pierce, who was fabulous; he put up with me for 18 months. I tried to keep the flying lessons and school a secret, but ran into Tim Woolard and Dennis Millsap at an FAA lecture in Kinston soon after I started ground school. Dang it!
Lots of things have come up during the 2+ years it took me to make it to solo, July 12, 2014. The hardest part for me was learning to land the Diamond 40, which is a really fast airplane that makes it around a traffic pattern quickly. My instructors (I’ve only had 7 or so) had to strategize a lot about how to get me over my anxiety about landing. Of course, Stuart Dillon is pretty sure that his 30 minutes in the simulator with me is what made the difference!
I’ve learned a lot and received great encouragement from chapter members (thank you!) and the folks at Dillon’s. In the final analysis, Taft was there when I soloed. I think Mike Roberson was too; he was on the runway in another plane. I know that Taft will be happy to have me finish my pilot’s license with the new guy, Shane Brown, who is also really good. Hopefully it won’t take another two years and 7 months for me to get through the rest of the license.
Text by Laura Gantt. Photo by Taft Stallings Photography.