Turning 51 after flying over 11 states during the Air Race Classic under 4 days in a C182 R Skylane II
Whilst learning to fly in California at 38, I realized that not only age didn’t matter when following one’s dreams, but also that availability of information and access to role models did matter and had its importance and truly made the difference!
Returning to Italy after achieving my private, instrument and complex certificates, besides 200 hours of flight time, I noticed the lack of support and camaraderie on this side of the ocean. What did I do? I created AWE – Aviation and Women in Europe and went about collecting and disseminating information and creating opportunities for women who wish to enter aviation as a profession, in Europe and beyond.
How? Creating annual conferences, itinerant around Europe showcasing each country’s contribution and involvement in aviation through history and by being actively present during various events such as helping bring Women in Corporate Aviation to EBACE in Geneva and volunteering for Women in Aviation International and South African Women in Aerospace, being mentor for programs such as EAA’s KidVenture and Women Soar You Soar, and the Ninety-Nines Professional Pilot Leadership Initiative.
It is never too late to follow one’s dreams. I started flying at 38 and was a flight instructor, under European AND American rules, at the age of 45! My motto has become “Impossible is only a stepping stone to success” … which translates simply into not accepting NO as an answer.
Currently I am out of an aviation job, but I am using this time to get my Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics. Over the years I have received recognition, scholarships, and awards for my achievements, mainly for my “uncommon determination in pursuing my goals and my potential to becoming an outstanding leader.” I am in my third year and expect to graduate in September 2015.
I wish to combine my 30+ years of business experience as an entrepreneur and my passion for flying and be accredited as an airport executive besides fly jets around the world. My plan is to fly helicopters at 85 and at 105 to write a book! In the meantime? To enjoy the view and the look in my mentees/students eyes when they “get it.”
This year I celebrated my 51st birthday participating in the Air race Classic, the all women’s cross country air race … and I came second! It all started in 2004 in New Zealand when I participated in the Round New Zealand Air Race. I met Chuck and Ed Frost and also Gretchen Jahn … fast forward and 9 years later here we are on the same team “The Dream Catchers.”
It most certainly was a challenge logistically for me in Italy, Gretchen in Denver area in the USA and the plane in Illinois. We managed it beautifully and the fact that Gretchen and I met in Wichita, Kansas to ferry the plane to Pasco , Washington gave us the time and opportunity to fly together, get to know each other and tweak our strengths and weaknesses!
As part of the preparation for the race not only did we need to make sure the plane was airworthy, clean and polished but we also needed to make sure the pilots were at max as well. We had our manicure and pedicure before the race and even painted our toe nails racing red to fly faster! … We came in second overall!
The race is about 2500 miles divided into nine legs that can be flown at any time deemed appropriate during the four day window available and only during the day time and in visual flight conditions. This year’s race took us through 11 states, starting in Washington state and ending in Arkansas.
During the race Gretchen and I looked after ourselves and each other, drinking enough water and eating good food, keeping ourselves hydrated and eating enough proteins … and sleeping well at night! The various challenges we met were overcome together, as a team. Communication was open and constant. We often even sang in the airplane, had fun, laughed and one afternoon we even had a massage.
Flying brings freedom of choice and opens many opportunities, whilst creating lasting friendships and learning to accept and at times even stretch one’s own personal limitations. And the view is spectacular!
About the Author: Michelle Bassanesi, Avid dream catcher, resource broker, and problem solver extraordinaire