by MARY MARGARET McEACHERN
amazing FEMALE FLYERS
to climb into
the cockpit of an
airplane and “slip
the surly bonds of
earth” is a lifelong
process that takes
you to heights,
literally and figu-ratively,
experience is rare.
percent of our
population. Female aviators are even more rare — only 5
percent of pilots are women — and even fewer become air-line
Pilot and instructor Cora Aytona flies her twin-engine Piper Aztec in February
2018. Opposite: Mary Kuehn looks out the window of a Cessna 172 on her way to
Gilliam-McConnell Airfield in Carthage, North Carolina, for barbecue with friends
in October 2019.
captains. This is changing, however; airlines are hiring
in droves, and they want women in their cockpits.
A career in flight often motivates students, but training
takes time, money, hard work and discipline. Fifty hours in
the cockpit, along with studying elements of physics, weather,
regulations, navigation, and communication, are required for
certification as a private pilot.
Students must pass written tests, oral tests, and practi-cal
tests. They must learn the phonetic alphabet — from
alfa to zulu — and become accustomed to 24-hour time,
WHO CAN INSPIRE
where 1 p.m.
They must learn
and be able to
with the airlines
It’s a long, dif-ficult
“Flying is my
Cora Aytona, certified flight instructor with All-American
Aviation operating at Wilmington International Airport.
A physical therapist by trade, she became hooked when
a patient introduced her to flight. Her nontraditional flight
journey was forced into hiatus by her career shortly after
she attained her instrument pilot rating. Undaunted, she
ultimately earned her commercial license with multiengine
“That’s when I bought my airplane, a twin-engine Piper
Aztec,” she says. “I absolutely loved her and flew her
everywhere. Aytona was my baby. It broke my heart to
let her go.”
WBM may 2020
COURTESY CORA AYTONA