From growing up without any particular interest in aviation to being hooked on flying... Nina Ortega says she couldn't have done it without her flight instructor or AOPA.
Nina Ortega discovers the joys of GA
Nina Ortega is a California-based attorney who did not grow up with any particular interest in aviation. She didn’t have a relative who was a pilot; she had taken a ride in a general aviation airplane once or twice but never imagined herself as a pilot. In 2005, she met the man who would become her husband. Len was a lapsed student pilot. As they were dating, she questioned him about how he could have given up this dream and encouraged him to earn his private pilot certificate.
Along the way, something happened. Len earned his license, and Ortega decided she didn’t want to fly with him unless she could handle an emergency. She says, “My original motivation was to be able to save my hide, but it only took one lesson for me to be hooked on flying in its own right. If I just wanted to learn to land in case of an emergency, I wouldn’t have needed a certificate. I wanted my own license to be able to go places.” Then she adds, “I love flying.”
Len was interested in buying an airplane and kept bringing advertisements to Ortega. She would quiz him: Is this really the one? Is this the one and only? Len couldn’t give an emphatic yes, until he found a Rockwell Commander. Ortega thought she would use the airplane for her own training, only to discover that primary instruction in a complex airplane presents additional challenges.
So Ortega bought a second airplane: a Piper Tomahawk. Now both are enjoying both airplanes, Ortega so much so that she’s contemplating working toward an instrument rating.
Along the way, Ortega had a dual support system. The first is Kristin Winter, the couple’s friend and flight instructor. Ortega says, “My husband introduced me to aviation, but Kristin is the one who made it happen. She was my mentor and my flight instructor. She’s also an excellent mechanic with inspector authority as well. She’s smart and funny and has taught me so much. Plus she is an attorney, like myself, but her specialty is aviation law, of course.”
The other support system is AOPA. “For a newbie to general aviation, everything is so foreign,” Ortega says. “I can’t imagine being an aircraft owner or GA pilot without being an AOPA member—there are just so many benefits.”
Ortega relied on AOPA to guide her through flight training and her first aircraft purchase. She says, “As a lawyer, I know about insurance, but I didn’t know about aviation insurance.” When it was time to buy aircraft insurance, it was natural for her to turn to AOPA, and she wasn’t disappointed. “My agent is Cher Clare, and she was very patient with me and carefully answered all my questions. She was really there for me.”
As Ortega continues to fly and enjoy the GA lifestyle, she stresses to new pilots to join AOPA, as they will find value there for a small amount of money. In short, Ortega says, “If it has to do with aviation, the first place I go is AOPA, and I usually don’t have to go anywhere else.”
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