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  • Mattie Bohanan

Job Duties Include: Cheerleading

The last part of training for my instrument rating wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t making any progress, and I had to relearn how to study. I was discouraged. One day, I called my parents to let them know that I was done flying because I wasn’t cut out for it. They responded with some affirmations that they believed that I was more than capable, but they also told me they supported me no matter what I decided to do. However, they informed me that if I wasn’t going to become a pilot, then I would need to transfer from Auburn to a school in my home state of Georgia to finish my new degree. I wasn’t quite ready to leave Auburn yet, so I promised myself I would at least finish my instrument rating. (I knew that would also give me one more fall semester, and consequently, one more football season.) Sure enough, once I passed my check ride, I was re-energized and motivated to continue and get the rest of my pilot certificates.

Reflecting back on my journey makes me feel even more appreciative of moments like this one. During the 2021 Air Race Classic Derby, my teammate and I stopped at my hometown airport, KGVL, and had lunch with my parents, who are my biggest supporters. I know without persevering through times of trial, I wouldn't be the person or pilot that I am today.

A short year and a half later, I became a flight instructor. What Fundamentals of Instructing (FOI) did not mention was how much I would have to play “cheerleader” for students that feel like I once did. I must have missed that part of FOI, but I am always more than happy to bring out my pom-poms.

My students often share with me their fear of being the only student to struggle with whatever they are struggling with and to have doubts. I always empathize with my students. I tell them, “if you feel a certain way, I can promise I have felt it at some point in my training, too.” What I have come to learn, and what I also share with them is what I’m about to share here. The reality of the situation is that positives and confidence are talked about way more publicly than hardships. That’s OK, but what is also OK is to talk about those hardships too! When we start talking about hardships, we can find the resources to start helping ourselves.

For those reading, I want to encourage you to seek out people who you know are your biggest fans in times of hardship. If you feel comfortable, utilize your flight instructor. In fact, I wish I had shared my trials with my flight instructors so that they could have had a little more insight into how I felt. But regardless, I know this: I could not have made it through without my people.

Additionally, I encourage you to be someone else’s cheerleader. The more I encourage others, the more encouragement I find for myself in times of doubt.

These same reasons are also why HERA believes in mentorship as part of its mission. If you have any questions about how to get involved in our mentorship program, email or contact us here.

Happy flying and know this: you are not alone. ☺

Mattie is a CFII at Auburn University, where she recently graduated with a degree in Professional Flight. She enjoys drinking her morning coffee, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. Mattie is looking forward to a successful and fulfilling career as a professional pilot whether it be in the business aviation industry or the airline industry.


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