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of The Ninety-Nines
The international organization of women pilots.

99s Fly!

Letter to our Governor

January 16, 2016

Dear Patty,

My aviation journey started at 12 years old with a flight in a powered parachute. During my university years, I joined the Flying Club and earned my Private Pilot's Certificate at 20, and always assumed flying would just be a hobby. However, in my mid-twenties the itch for flying came back and I started to dream about an aviation career. After scrimping and saving for a few years, I started my first aviation job working as a Front Desk Attendant and Line Fueler at a small FBO in Hood River, Oregon known as Classic Wings.  This was in July 2011. By October, I started training full time for my instrument rating. I dedicated every waking hour and every last dime to the effort, and by July 14, 2012 I had an instrument rating, commercial SEL, commercial MEL, and initial CFI. Although I was incredibly tired, I was also running very low on Top Ramen, so I started work at two flight schools. I am proud to say that on July 17th, 2012 I earned my first dollar as professional pilot by giving a flight review! I might have been the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life! At 336 hours of total time, I felt as if I was a novice and spent most of the flight wondering how in the WORLD anyone was going to let me do this! However, I found that each flight it gets easier, and over time one scares herself less and less. Eventually, one can actually relax.

I taught for two years and acquired around 1500 hours total time, with slightly over 1000 hours of instruction, a CFII and MEI. In August of 2014, I moved to San Francisco for a job with a drone company flying a C182 and a Quest Kodiak (a TurboProp with a PT6). Finally I had a salary! I had regular hours and WEEKENDS! No more Top Ramen. Amazingly, for the first time in the last three years I had time for a date, hobbies and friends again! Working for the drone company was great, but we didn’t fly much and it was time to move on. Armed with a soon-to-expire ATP written, I headed back to Oregon to finish what I had started just about four years ago. I am now the proud holder of an ATP! In mid-December, I started training with a small scheduled 135 operator in Southern California called SurfAir, flying a Pilaus.

My aviation story is filled with struggle, laughter, and fun. It was not easy, but nothing in life that comes easy gives you the complete satisfaction of success. The road behind me was rough, but there were people that rose up to help me along the way. These people gave me hope when I struggled, and cheered me to celebrate my successes. When my first student passed their Private Pilot’s check ride, these women cheered. When I didn’t get the job with Cessna as a Sales Rep, these women encouraged me and gave me advice. My friends and mentors in aviation helped ease my journey along this path and many of them I met through the Ninety-Nines and the Professional Pilots Leadership Initiative (PPLI). I joined the Ninety Nines just after completing my CFI and the PPLI soon after that. Both groups provided me a place to meet other pilots of all ages and experience levels.  They gave me the resources I needed to reach out to mentors for advice from more senior pilots. As pilots, we need to bond together because the success of one person enhances and uplifts aviatrixes everywhere. The PPLI has been an incredible resource for me over the last three years, first as a participant, and now as a Mentoring Coordinator and Senior Navigator. The PPLI provides a framework for mentorship, peer discussion regarding challenges in aviation, and giving back through mentoring other women. This program is designed to give each participant the opportunity to receive and give mentoring and to exchange ideas. I personally benefited immensely from this program. My mentors during the PPLI were all incredible women, volunteering their time and energy to help me network, build a resume, set goals, and utilize all of my resources.

Besides the PPLI, the Ninety-Nines has amazing scholarship opportunities for its dedicated members. The Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship Fund helps many women take vital steps in their careers and personal flying skills through FULL rating scholarships. The true value of completing a rating from start to finish is an extreme benefit to an aviation career. I earned my Multi-Engine Instructors rating through the AEMSF and it helped me earn highly prized multi-engine time required for my ATP. Furthermore, it helped me earn the job flying for the drone company in California.

It has been my great fortune to have meet an amazing number of mentors, friends and pilots through the Ninety-Nines.

If there is a little advice I could give an aspiring pilot — whether seeking a career or not — I would tell her these things:

  1. ALWAYS remember you CAN succeed, but don’t expect the path to be easy. 
  2. DEDICATE yourself to each task, fully and completely.
  3. GATHER all the women, pilots, friends and colleges you can and build a support system. 
  4. JOIN the PPLI, and dedicate yourself to getting the most out of your time there. 
  5. GIVE BACK 100% of what is given to you, even if it’s not money forward but time. 
  6. VOLUNTEER at any aviation event (but also bring your business cards).  
  7. TRY TO NEVER SAY NO to an opportunity.  
  8. SMILE and enjoy the ride. 
  9. DON’T FORGET, boys will be boys and you’ll likely be surrounded by a lot of them…. remember being 12 on the playground? When they tease you, just ignore them.  
  10. JOIN the amazing 6.6%! (Currently only 6.6% of pilots are women). 

A few statistics (as of 2013) I love:

  • Of the 599,086 total pilots, 39,621 (6.61%) are women. 
  • Of the 98,842 total CFIs, 6,386 (6.46%) are women. 
  • Of the 149,824 total ATPs, 6,205 (4.14%) are women.

Lacey Wolf

CFI, CFII, MEI, and new ATP, Devoted member of the PPLI and the Ninety Nines!

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