This wasn’t always the case. A divorced mother of two, she had dreamed of flying since she was 6, when her uncle took her up in his Cessna 172. When she told her mother she wanted to learn to fly, she said, “No! Absolutely not,” says Dreyfuss, who says her mother didn’t believe girls should do things such as flying aircraft. “I was the son my father always wanted,” she says.
She kept her desire to fly hidden from her first husband, whom she married while in college. One year he received a work bonus and offered to share it with her, she said. When she replied she’d use the money for flying lessons, he, too, said absolutely not.
Once on her own and making her own money—she ran an architectural sign company near Washington, D.C., for 20 years—Dreyfuss trained in a 1946 Piper Cub at Davis Airport in Laytonsville, Maryland. She bought a Cessna 150 before she’d earned her certificate.
Dreyfuss believes in encouraging others to fly. Each year she funds the Debi Dreyfuss Dare to be Different awards for pilots in local chapters of The Ninety-Nines. She also is a contributor to the AOPA Foundation. “I’ve lost a few pilot friends to air accidents and have advocated aviation safety to prevent additional tragedies,” she says. “The more training and safety awareness, the better chance we pilots have for experiencing the joys of flight unscathed. Each one of us is an aviation ambassador, and the safer we are, the better image we have for general aviation.”