I am not really sure if I consider myself a writer, other than I like to put my words to paper. There’s something romantic and perfect about it. As if my pen was meant to touch that paper and speak the narrative that exists inside of me. Sharing what is inside of me, while freeing for me, can also be a bit vulnerable as anyone can read it, whereas before… it was just for me.

Marissa in the CandaAir Simulator

This social media frenzy world that exists has been one that has been both inspiring and hurtful. Sometimes, even at the same time. Being an introvert, I have chosen what to share and when to share it. Until a few weeks ago I’ve never really shown pivotal events as they were happening. In many times it’s revealed hindsight and in a blog, which allows for some protection on my life.

The past three weeks I have been at Flight Safety in Cincinnati working on my PIC type rating for the CRJ200 to fly the line at Air Wisconsin. For those that haven’t read all of my blogs, the cliff notes version is that I have taken a long road to get to where I am. Life happened, and I made choices the best that I could to navigate through some really tough situations, situations where some even do not come out alive. Somehow, I have come out on the other side. Some parts stronger, others still healing but always, always still moving.

My training thus far has been a romance being played out right in front of my eyes. The simulated humming of the engines in the sims, the lights, the sounds, the pseudo-ATC call outs and I find myself getting back into this dance that my heart knew all too well once upon a time. Some may relate it to the smell of a baseball glove, the stadium lights, the sounds of fans in the stand and life feels perfect. The love of the game and respectfully this journey is for the love of flight. This once upon a time started long ago, spending hours looking at clouds, and tagging along with my dad to the airport just to be around my fellow magical birds that could go into the heavens where I longed to be. Life happens, events happen. In 1992 my dad was killed in a plane crash. He was the pilot.

A young boy that rode his bike to the airfield at 14 to wash planes who became a husband, then a father, took to the skies one day and never came back. There was a pilot training in the right seat, and I will go my whole life and always wonder what really happened, and who really feathered the prop..but the NTSB report shows pilot error, operator negligence and 16 of the 22 onboard deceased. An engine failure right before or after rotation is what airline pilots train for, and on April 22, 1992, that is exactly what happened to my father. My fated journey as a pilot began deeply rooted in a romance of flight with the stark reality of what NTSB reports are. What and how Federal Aviation Regulations are made and the reality of the ripple effect. My gravitation towards safety and outreach has been a profound one. Like a voice that you can not ignore. Even when muted she sings a song so loud.

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Last April I had the great fortune of being able to fly the sister ship to my dads plane, at the very airport of his last flight. At the same exact time he was spooling up those PT-6 engines on the DeHavilland Twin Otter, his daughter was for the first time breaking the moment of silence that had been observed the previous 24 years with the sounds of a new song, the sound of continued life. It was the sound of hope. And more importantly, it was the sound of the future. My training from a pilot’s perspective has been amazing. Flying is magical, flying is a gift. There has not been a moment in the simulator where I felt as if I was stepping onto the plane, but putting her on. With each sim session, there is this peace and more situational awareness, a greater sense of home and not one of anxiety. It feels as though the world is right. I am not sure if that bothered any of my instructors that while I have had days I didn’t fly as hoped, it was met with peace and excitement. While my partner was becoming more anxiety-ridden I felt more one with who I was and how to correct, how to see, accept and move forward.

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Last Saturday I was scheduled to have a check ride, but earlier on in the week, we concluded it would be extended. Not for lack of my ability to fly but rather my reconnection and acquired speed for things of the automated world. Like any great love story, you need to let the foundation build. Don’t force something natural- it may require a little more patience. It feels a bit vulnerable to say and write for everyone to see but I just needed some more time. It’s a beautiful love story that is exactly where it needs to be. It doesn’t make me less of a pilot, or my ability to fly or feel an airplane. Sometimes when you climb a mountain you take a break. It’s not a failure, just five more sessions and a 38-year-old mom that took eight years away from flying.

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I have received so many letters, emails and messages about sharing the journey and life is more than just sharing hindsight, or sharing how I achieved a rating. It’s being vulnerable and saying I am doing the very best that I can, and hey, I need a few more sim sessions. I could easily try to say it’s because I was stressed because I was away from my kids, or my stepdad had a stroke during week two of training, or how thirty minutes prior to going into the simulator I learned that he was having emergency brain surgery. Those are all valid hardships, but if anything, what I have learned is that you can’t stop life from happening. Life is going to hand you some tough paths, it’s what you do in the turbulent air that determines the damage and recovery. You may have to take a loss of altitude to maintain stability and gain control over your plane. You may need to breathe and step on the ball when you suffer a loss to maintain directional control.

My instructor asked me what I wanted to do when I regained some composure after finding out about my stepdad’s emergency surgery (who is also a pilot ASEL/S, AMEL/S), with minutes before our sim time, I said I wanted to fly and I would be ok. It was something that I knew both of my dads would have told me to do and I knew in my heart they were. That airplane door closes and it’s about a girl and an airplane. And that’s exactly what I am going to continue to do. My instructor told me I was a strong woman, I don’t know about that, I am just a girl who can’t ignore that song in her heart. I know how to wear my scars and to continue on flying through tears. And yes, my stepdad is in recovery.

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