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.”
Ruiz owns JJR Marketing, a full-service marketing and public relations agency in business since 2006, and Fig Factor Media, an international publishing company specializing in anthologies, business, self-help, and children’s books. She created Today’s Inspired Latina, the largest collection of Latina stories in a book anthology series in the world, as well as Latinas in Aviation, a book published by Fig Factor Media sold to benefit scholarships. She also founded LATINATalks and Young LATINATalks, assembling a team to create a TED-style series of presentations by Latinas of all ages. Living the Amazing, also written to inspire, is another of the 23 books to her name, and she also has a signature teddy bear that she’s been flying with since her first solo. As a kind gesture she gives away replicas of that bear throughout her travels, which have brought her to four continents in the past three years.
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.
How did you get involved in aviation?
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.
What is your favorite thing about aviation?
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.
Did you have any fears when you began flying?
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.
What is the biggest obstacle in aviation you believe you’ve had to overcome?
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.
What is it like being a female and Latina in aviation?
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.
What are your thoughts on diversity in aviation?
There is not a lot of diversity and I am trying to change it, especially with our Latino community.
How do you believe you inspire others to pursue their aviation dreams?
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).
What is your ultimate aviation goal?
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.
Please explain how your work expanded to allow you to work as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, business owner, and book publisher:
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.
Can you please share your journey as a cancer survivor?
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.
We heard you have plans to participate in the next Air Race Classic. How have you prepared?
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!
With so many different things under your belt, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to fly! I am also passionate about spending time with my family, journaling, meditating and cooking.