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Scholarship continues a pilot's mission

Encouraging more Midwest women to fly

Michigan pilot Debbie Franceus rallied fellow women with these words: "Learning to fly has to be one of the greatest rewards a person can experience. It challenges your personal abilities, sharpens your skills as a decision maker, brings forward a huge sense of accomplishment and last, but not least, brings you rewards that can take you places you never thought you could go."

Debbie Franceus's first solo. Photo courtesy of Mike Franceus.

Franceus, of Temperance, Michigan, encouraged female pilots throughout the upper Midwestern United States to step out of their comfort zone and learn to fly.

After her death from breast cancer in 2023, her husband and flying partner, Mike, created a foundation that bears her name to provide scholarships to help women earn their pilot certificates.

The Franceuses began flying together when Mike received his private pilot certificate in 1979. The couple became aircraft owners in 2011 with the purchase of a 1962 Beechcraft Debonair. No longer satisfied with flying right seat, Debbie decided at the age of 61 to sign up for flying lessons at Toledo Suburban Airport and instantly fell in love.

Debbie Franceus flying. Photo courtesy of Mike Franceus.

Debbie immediately joined The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots, and attended every flying event she could throughout the upper Midwest, rallying women of all ages to pursue their dreams of flight. She earned her private pilot certificate in 2021 and quickly set her sights on earning her high-performance endorsement so she could take the left seat in the couple's Debonair.

Unfortunately, in 2022, just one month after her retirement as a nurse, Debbie was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma, an aggressive form of breast cancer; she died 10 months later.

Shortly after her death in early 2023, Mike created the Debbie Franceus Memorial Aviation Foundation to award aspiring female flight students and female pilots working on advanced ratings resources to achieve their dream to fly through its yearly scholarship program.

The foundation will award one $3,500 scholarship, two $2,000 scholarships, and six $1,000 scholarships on July 13.

Applications are due June 15. Scholarships are offered to active female aviation students training at 65 participating airports, flight schools, and clubs located in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Applicants must be working toward their private pilot certificate or an advanced rating. Other conditions apply, and you can find more information about the scholarship on the foundation's website.

Niki Britton
eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.
Topics: Flying Club, Flight School, Scholarship

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