Arizona student pilot receives AOPA training scholarship

March 9, 2012

Theresa Farley soloed just after her sixteenth birthday—several years ago. She wasn’t able to continue her training because her mother became ill and there was no more money for flying.

Now married and a mother of two teenagers, the Maricopa, Ariz., student pilot soloed again on Feb. 6—and realized all at once the thrill of what she’s been working so hard to accomplish. “My husband said I smiled all day,” she said.

Farley is the recipient of a $3,000 scholarship from AOPA, presented March 8 during the opening day of the twenty-third annual Women in Aviation International (WAI) conference in Dallas, Texas. The funds will help her keep on track to her goal of becoming a private pilot, Farley said. A stay-at-home parent, she had saved up some money to try to finish up her certificate. The scholarship removes some of the pressure of trying to finish up before the money ran out, she said.

Training with Chandler Air Service at Chandler Municipal Airport, Farley had nothing but praise for her flight instructor, who is “very encouraging.” When the wheels of the flight school’s Piper Cherokee left the ground on her second solo, Farley heard her instructor’s voice in her head, telling her, “You can do this.” Farley’s husband, Brian, had often urged her to return to her onetime passion.

Farley plans to become a flight instructor, and to volunteer for Angel Flight and Animal Rescue Flights. She would like to mentor aspiring pilots. “I want to help the general aviation community grow,” she said.

Growing the pilot population is a key initiative of the AOPA Foundation, and that includes bringing new people, and more women, into flying. AOPA has launched a student pilot retention initiative focusing on helping those who have already started training to earn a certificate. A key component of that initiative, the Flight Training Excellence Awards, strives to spotlight the best flight schools and flight instructors. Along those same lines, the association created the $3,000 scholarship to help a WAI member earn a private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate.

An estimated $470,431 in scholarships will be awarded at this year’s WAI conference, which runs through March 10.