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  • Mattie Bohanan

Move out, flight time, & graduation – oh my!

In the span of two weeks, I packed up five years worth of living, reached my R-ATP minimums, and graduated with my masters from Auburn University. On top of that, as I write this, I am on board an airplane being sent to check my logbooks and documents for my regional that I will be starting training for next month. I had been anticipating this transition since the day I made up my mind to become a professional pilot. Ok, maybe I hadn’t been anticipating a second graduation, but hey, that’s life for you.

So, what do all of these symbolic moments packed into such a short period of time feel like to me?

To be honest, I don’t know.

It hasn’t hit me, and I don’t know when it will.

What I do know is this:

I could not have made it here without my people and support group. I have leaned on these people in times of trial (and when I was ready to quit and pursue something else) and have celebrated with these people in times of victory (successful job interviews and goodbye dinners). I feel thankful to have an encouraging group through it all. One thing that I think that has been special about my journey is the fact that my support group ranges from my fellow people in the aviation community and from peers that have a plethora of backgrounds: marketers, engineers, consultants, landscapers, philanthropists, etc.

In one of my last classes entitled “Educational Leadership,” we were asked to make a web of who re-energizes us, so that you can continue to put your best foot forward. There were pre-made categories of mentors and supporters in different circles of your life, such as in your institution, in your network, in your community. And, there were also blank categories left up to your choosing to fill out. In mine, I chose people that I enjoyed doing life with: people who may have never even set foot on an airplane or airport, but cheer me on, people who make my belly hurt from laughing so hard, people who when I first met thought I “drove” airplanes.

I became friends with Laine during move-in week our freshman year of college, and since, she has remained one of my closest friends and biggest encouragers. When I was studying to become a CFI, she even volunteered to be my student and teach her my lesson plans! Recently, I finally got to take her flying. It instantly became one of my most joyful flights yet. Laine received her Master’s in Engineering and is now working for a nuclear power company!

When you are starting out, especially professionally, it’s easy to only surround yourself in a circle that are in the same walk of life as you – that’s only natural. But, I wanted to take a moment to share how much the people who are “outsiders” to the aviation world have gotten me through as well and kept me humble. Sometimes, you just need a friend cheering you on because they can’t wait to be your passenger someday.

I think it’s easy to get caught up as a female in aviation to feel alone in the fact that it’s so male dominated. It’s easy to feel hopeless because you think aviation is the only industry like this. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side. What I have also learned from my friends outside of aviation is this: the grass ain’t greener.

My friends, especially those that are in male dominated fields, have expressed similar experiences. And that alone, is comforting. It doesn’t make it right, but it sure does help to know that you have someone who understands. It fuels my eagerness for equity even more, knowing that collectively, we are helping bring diversity to the workforce. As passionate as I feel about recruiting and showing young girls that they, too, can become a pilot, I understand aviation isn’t for everyone. But, maybe I can show that little girl that she, too, can become exactly who she wants to be and that she doesn’t have to wait until she sees someone who looks like her to invite her in.


Mattie is a CFI/CFII and a Graduate Research Assistant at Auburn University, where she is pursuing an M.Ed. in Adult Education. She enjoys drinking her morning coffee, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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