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Ahnika Johnson

Going where the flying takes her

Oh, the people we meet. In Hood River, Oregon, for a story on flight school and aerial imaging company TacAero (see “Off the Grid,” January 2023 AOPA Pilot), we found a young woman mightily tugging a Cessna 172 uphill to its hangar.

Photography by Chris Rose
Photography by Chris Rose

Just 17 years old, Ahnika Johnson uprooted and left home in Minnesota to work with TacAero’s imaging division, Hood Tech Aero, joining this band of entrepreneurs and building flight time. “I am a private pilot with high performance and complex endorsements, as well as tailwheel time. I am currently working for Hood Tech Aero as a remote sensing technician and payload operator. We work on aerial targeting and surveys, then I process the imagery into final products for customers. I have about 130 hours of total time, and I am planning on continuing to build hours until I get my commercial certification. I am still exploring possibilities so I am not sure what my long-term plans will be, but I am open to wherever my path takes me.”

How did you get started in aviation? I was inspired to become a pilot after I spoke to a commercial pilot in the cockpit before an airline flight when I was 14. Then, a couple years later, I job shadowed at a regional airline, and they let me have a headset to listen to air traffic control. When I was 17, the pilot that I job shadowed opened a flight school, and I became one of the first students.

Biggest challenges? The biggest challenges I faced in my early flight training was balancing my work schedule and flying in the summer Minnesota weather. I had to switch around working in the mornings to try to beat the winds in the afternoon.

Favorite aircraft? My favorite aircraft is the Top Cub because of its capabilities to land with little runway and the window view is amazing. Recently, I flew from Iowa to Oregon in a Cub, and it was breathtaking to see the northern states from a low altitude.

Favorite aviation-related activity? I love attending airshows and getting to meet pilots from all sorts of backgrounds. I enjoy hearing stories about what pilots and future pilots are wanting to do, as well as learning from experienced pilots how they got where they are. I am also always more than happy to hop on a flight or sit in an aircraft that is new to me when offered.

Advice for students? My advice for student pilots would be to not be too hard on yourself because it is OK if you don’t immediately comprehend all the information you are given. Another piece of insight would be to give yourself enough time to study and try to prevent procrastination.

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Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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