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Woman Earns Pilot's License at Age 72

At the age of 72, Valeria Valiquette, from Polson, Mont., recently earned her private pilot license. "I’ve still not come down to earth," says Valiquette. Valiquette and her husband Ron travel south together for the winter, and now Valeria and Ron can share the flying duties in their Cessna 182. Valeria first started learning to fly in 1975 in Cessna 153 and 172s. Back then, Valeria and Ron owned a Cessna 182 RG that Ron used for business. In 1976, Valeria flew a single major flying trip to Long Beach, California, Miami, and Tampa, before heading back to Spokane. With Ron using the Cessna for business, Valiquette did not have much time to practice, and while she and Ron tool a college course for ground school visual and instrument flight rules, Valeria never finished her practical training. In 1979, the Valiquettes sold their plane and built sea-going motor yachts for 13 years. During this time, and while living abroad for a few years, Valeria learned how to navigate, sail, and dock large boats, and also mastered driving a motorhome during their trips to the Southwest and Mexico. Valeria says she got the urge to fly again, and that buying a Cessna 182 in 2008 gave her a new purpose and the opportunity to challenge herself. "This has actually renewed our youth and enthusiasm for more adventure," says Valeria. Valeria started studying and practicing for her license with flight instructor Stephen Turner, who Valeria says has a gift for teaching and "quietly" demanding perfection. On October 16, Valeria passed her exam and was issued a private pilot license. "In 20 years of flying, I have never met someone with this ambition starting an adventure in aviation as she has done," says Michelle Petrina, the pilot examiner who gave Valeria her exam. Valeria says getting her license was a tremendous experience. "I’m so glad I can finally fly with him and, as agreed, we will always fly together and take care of each other. That’s what learning to fly was all about for me. After 50 years of marriage and many adventures in planes, boats and cars, we still do it together," says Valeria.

November 12, 2009

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