aviation offers countless opportunities. Some flight students continue
toward their original goal; others refine their goals as they discover their options. Donovan met Kuehn through aviation. They earned their ”
commercial ratings the same day. They are now working together
to earn their flight instructor certificates.
“Mary is one of my best friends,” Donovan says. “We have
flown together to Sarasota and New York City. What a blast!”
Flight training is challenging. Would-be pilots must learn how
to overcome various challenges and hurdles. Flying solo is daunt-ing
to most students but, once conquered, that hurdle engenders
“I remember my first solo,” Donovan says. “I sat with my flight
instructor and tried to talk to him the entire time allotted for my
lesson so I wouldn’t have to go. I was so nervous! But he caught
on quickly, telling me I could sit and talk all day, but I was soloing
that day. So I did and, afterward, I felt like I could do anything.”
It doesn’t always work that way. Kuehn was low on confidence
after completing her first solo.
“My biggest hurdle was my second solo,” Kuehn says. “I strug-gled
with my landings. I had flown solo once. For some reason, I
couldn’t gather my wits to go again. My instructors, recogniz-ing
my frustration with this roadblock, focused on other aspects
of my training, allowing me to gain confidence in handling the
airplane. When I was ready, I flew my second solo, and it went
better than my first. Shortly afterward, I flew solo, cross-country,
and was able to quickly complete my training.”
Solo cross-country flight proved Hendricks’ greatest hurdle.
“I hesitated to fly out of the pattern by myself,” she says. “It
was windy, gusting to 26 knots. I wanted to wait. I almost did.
I’m so glad I didn’t. That flight sealed my self-confidence.”
Hendricks also recalls her first night flight: “The first time I
flew over the ocean at night, the disorientation I felt in complete
darkness taught me an important lesson — to trust my airplane’s
Trust the instruments, and the instructor who knew she could
“Trust the process,” she says. “Be confident. You may be afraid.
You may hesitate. That’s normal. If an instructor thinks you’re
ready, then you’re ready. You’ve got this.”
Donovan had her own challenges.
“I struggled with crosswind landings,” she says. “I dreaded
them, but with time and practice, I gained the confidence I
needed to perfect them. Experience is everything in flying; it’s
what makes it so fun.”
Financing flight school can seem impossible. It costs up to
$10,000 to obtain a private pilot’s license. The price soars for a
commercial license: nearly $64,000 when starting with a private
license and $81,000 without. But the increased demand for
female aviators has many airlines offering to pay training costs.
Several organizations, such as Women in Aviation International,
AOPA, the Ninety-Niners, and EAA, offer generous scholarship
“I was grateful to receive an EAA scholarship that covered my
private pilot training,” Hendricks says.
Mary Margaret McEachern, the author, is all smiles after her first
solo flight in a Piper Cherokee Warrior in March 2020. At press time,
she had completed her solo cross country, leaving just three addi-tional
hours and a check ride remaining to receive her private pilot
license, McEachern expects to have that completed by the end of
April, 2020. She says she is going to continue in the same direction
as the female pilots featured here.