Women in Aviation - Lauren Thompson

by Lauren Thompson on Mar 09 2019
My life has taken many turns to get me where I am today. My name is Lauren Thompson, I am happily married to my husband of five years, and we are kept busy with our seven month old baby boy and Labradoodle named Piper. My pursuit to an aviation career began when I was in 8th grade when my class took a trip to Washington D.C. I was ecstatic to take a photo with the plane’s Captain after we landed, and the rest is history.

A few years later I went on my first college visit to Purdue University, where a dozen family members had attended in prior years. I met a student who was a female pilot, who talked about Purdue’s flight program and an all-women’s cross-country air race that would be starting at Purdue over the summer. Still in high school, I volunteered my time for a few days before the race and was able to see about a hundred women pilots, both young and old, taking off one by one to begin a race that would take four days to complete. I knew that if I was accepted into Purdue’s Professional Flight program, I needed to compete in the Air Race Classic too.

My dreams did eventually come true, when I stepped foot on campus in the fall of 2007. I’ll never forget my first solo on August 27th and becoming a private pilot on December 20th. In no time at all, I had the honor of representing my university in the Air Race Classic in the summer of 2009 and 2010. As Captain of the team in 2010, we placed 1st in the collegiate division and 4th overall. Spending a week with hundreds of women and hearing their stories and flying in parts of the country I have never been, is an unforgettable experience and one I tell female pilots they have to do at least once in their lifetime!

When I finished my Bachelor’s degree, many of my friends were being hired by the airlines. I, however, decided to stay at Purdue to pursue a Masters in Aviation and Aerospace Management; not because I loved school, but because this is the only thing I ever could see myself doing. It was not easy, but with dedicated professors to help me along the way and deciding to do my research on a topic I found important in the aviation industry, I finished strong. I think education is so important; and the interesting thing is that education can look different for everyone. No matter what path you take, I urge you to keep learning - all the time. After graduation I took a leap and moved half way around the world to China to teach Aviation English at the Civil Aviation University of China in Tianjin. It was during this year of teaching that I realized how little I actually knew, but it was challenging and I learned a lot.

After moving back to the U.S. and getting married, we moved to Sanford, Florida for my job at L3 Airline Academy. I have had many different roles of teaching here at L3. I first started teaching Aviation English and then I got my AGI to teach private pilot ground school. After working at L3 for a year, I did my training to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). I liked the fast pace of training here at the Academy, which is very different than the training I did in college. I learned a lot becoming a CFI, which would help me better teach in the classroom.

Outside of my full time job, I am a member of The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots and am part of the Daytona Chapter. This is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote advancement of aviation through education, scholarships, and mutual support while honoring the unique history and sharing our passion for flight. The first ever meeting that Amelia Earhart held in 1929, 99 women pilots were in attendance. I have also competed in two more Air Race Classic races in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, myself along with my two teammates, placed 6th out of 50 teams flying through the mountains in Arizona to our final destination in Daytona, Florida.

I am fortunate to have so many opportunities of learning and growing as an instructor that I want to share all I know with the next generation of female pilots. I have taught an eight week ground school class to a local Orlando high school on the weekends and shared in many classrooms my experiences. Last month I had the opportunity to volunteer with other 99s, painting a 50 foot compass rose at a small airport outside of Leesburg, Florida. It brings me great joy to teach students in the classroom who have no prior knowledge about airplanes and see the knowledge they learn in just a few short weeks, to becoming private pilots after a few months, and now to flying Boeing 737s back in China.

It's amazing that after a decade of flying I still hear people asking, “You can fly an airplane?!” or people assume I am a flight attendant when I am in a pilot uniform because I am a woman. My advice to everyone, especially aspiring female pilots, would be to never let other people’s opinions influence you or keep you from pursuing your dreams. It is going to take a lot of hard work and focus to reach your dreams, and if it doesn’t, then you’re not dreaming big enough! Surround yourself with positive people who are going to support and encourage you along your journey. I love teaching and flying, so I have found a job that I am able to do both. As the ancient Chinese saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”