Not Just For Me, Also For Mom

by Samuel Ayala on May 16 2019
Ever since I could remember, airplanes have always been so fascinating to me - all I wanted to do was ride on them as a passenger. Lucky enough I was born in Newark, New Jersey, close to the Newark Liberty International Airport, where there were airplanes taking off and landing at all times of day. As a kid, I would often ask my mom to take me to see them!

Fast forward a few years and my family and I find ourselves in Orlando, Florida, again living right next to another large airport! As I was finishing up in high school, I knew I wanted to become a pilot, but I wasn’t really sure on how I was going to achieve that goal. After doing some research, I was initially discouraged because of how expensive flight training was, but my mom kept insisting that I pursue my dreams and that she would help me in any way she could. So, in an effort to follow my dreams and not let my mom down, I applied to three different aviation universities around the US, and was accepted to all three!

Jacksonville University (JU), located in Jacksonville, Florida has an aviation program of about 185 students and the flying portion of their program is conducted by L3! With the support from my mom, I was able to pay for all of my flight training through Federal Parent Plus loans. My very first flight was a cross country flight from Craig Airport, where our training is based, to Flagler Airport in fall of 2016; I immediately fell in love with flying airplanes. I couldn’t believe that I was in a small aircraft flying myself from one airport to another with only my instructor sitting next to me!

Flying was everything I ever wanted to do, and I was achieving that goal little by little as I progressed through my lessons. When I first purchased all my materials for flight training, I remember the first thing I told my mom was that one day my logbook would be filled with hours. Now, every time I fill out one more line of my logbook, I think of my mom and how it is her dream to see me as an airline pilot one day.  

I feel like my experience at L3 has been unique; all of my instructors were able to teach in a way that I understood, which allowed me to move through the program faster than most. By the time I was going up for my commercial multi check ride, I didn’t even have enough hours to fill out an online application, it had to be done by hand (which is not that common)! By my sophomore year, I had just completed flight training up to and including commercial multi and commercial single. By the time I began my junior year at JU in fall of 2018, I was instructing part time! This proved to be a great opportunity, because not only am I still in school but now I am getting paid to work in the field that I love. I think the best part of instructing is watching my student’s faces when they finally understand a concept, or they nail a short field landing. Whenever they succeed, a smile and sense of calming success comes over them, which is exactly how I felt when I was in their shoes learning all the ins and outs of being a pilot.

I am currently finishing up my junior year and will be graduating in fall of 2019 with all of my ratings and a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management and Flight Operations. I think getting a degree and my ratings at the same time, while being a challenge, was definitely worth the effort and lead to some great opportunities! In the spring of 2018, I was presented with the opportunity to become an Ambassador at Republic Airways and I attended training that following summer. The Ambassador position has allowed me to meet pilots in the industry, stay connected with the company, and meet other Ambassadors from around the country. I also received a conditional job offer from Republic Airways – now, I know exactly where I will be going when I reach 1000 hours of flight time.

My advice for anyone that wants to become a pilot or even just join the aviation industry is to not allow a price tag to crush your dreams. There is always a way to achieve your goals and if you try hard enough not only will you make yourself proud, but those around you as well.

- Samuel

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