A cancer survivor, business owner, publisher, and philanthropist. All of those describe pilot Jacqueline S. Ruiz, and you could add several other titles and still not be done. But one thing is for sure: Ruiz is working hard to improve the world and help fellow Latinas join her in the air.
Ruiz has created a scholarship dedicated to young Latinas interested in the aviation and aerospace industries. “We can have a positive impact and elevate these young Latinas with this scholarship and pave the way for the next generation of aviators,” said Ruiz, a passionate entrepreneur and certificated sport pilot. “This will be a much-needed boost for these women, and it will infuse more energy and diversity into the aviation and aerospace industries.”
AOPA caught up with Ruiz to hear more about her passion for aviation, helping others, and how her life experiences have brought her to where she is today.
My husband and I attended a hot air balloon festival and we were attracted to a beautiful sport airplane. At first, we thought it was a toy since it was so small and because we did not know much about general aviation at the time. I purchased a discovery flight and the experience was absolutely amazing! I got to fly on a beautiful summer afternoon with no doors on the plane. I totally fell in love, but it was not until months later that I got the “divine download” to pursue my certificate. Once that decision was made in my heart and mind, I never looked back.
The freedom that it gives me. The combination of the pragmatic approach to safety and the magic of the freedom to soar the skies. I also love the reaction I see from my passengers every time I take them up. It’s extraordinary, especially with children.
Yes. Even though I thought I “understood” the rules of flying by all the books that I read, I was still scratching my head at the beginning at this magical marvel. For the first few months, I felt like I was strapped to the plane and finally, I had a moment when I realized that I was no longer strapped, and the plane had become an extension of me. One of the most amazing moments to get rid of my fear during my training. I will treasure this moment forever.
Time management. Being patient to coordinate my busy schedule of managing two businesses, two nonprofits, traveling the world to speak, presenting my books, and managing my family obligations. All of this, combined with the learning to fly and weather availability, definitely tested my time management skills.
At first, I felt very lonely. Almost six years ago when I started, I did not see a lot [of] female or Latina pilots. Now that I have gone on a national and international crusade to find other Latina pilots for my new book Latinas in Aviation, I feel extremely excited about the expansion of my passion to bring other Latinas to this industry.
There is not a lot of diversity and I am trying to change it, especially with our Latino community.
I inspire them by taking them up in the airplane, providing scholarships (personally funding), publishing aviation-related children’s books, and my new anthology book Latinas in Aviation, creating online courses that relate to aviation, hosting events in person, and now virtually to bring pilots together to share their stories, creating aviation-related products, sharing my photos on social media, giving away more than 700 #pilotina teddy bears that are all over the world (I have always flown with a teddy bear and I give them away to create magic and inspiration).
To get my IFR [rating] and commercial [certificate] and continue to use this amazing hobby to inspire others. Buy my own airplane to fly my family around the U.S. and Mexico.
My quest to serve my community as a servant leader has led me to do it in a variety of ways. At the center of everything I do is service to others. I started following my “divine downloads” and inspirations to elevate others which has led me to my biggest dream of creating two companies, two nonprofits, 23 books, 10 products, creating many brands that impact around the world. I am humbled and blessed. I did not plan it this way. I just continued to follow my heart.
I was diagnosed with cancer for the first time when I was just 21. I was told that I might not be able to have children. The second situation with cancer happened just two years later in another part of my body: near my liver. I had a one-third of chance of living a normal life according to the doctor. The day I was told that I only had a one-third chance of being ok, I decided to live life to the fullest and make each and every day count. I feel like I renewed my gratitude for life with God every day by my intentional acts of service. It changed my life forever.
Our team is very excited for the race. Three of us have raised the funds for [the] race, prepared our merchandise (teddy bears special edition) to give away at every stop, and did our photoshoot. We are ready for the Air Race Classic 2021!
I love to fly! I am also passionate about spending time with my family, journaling, meditating and cooking.