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Pilots speak their passion

In partnership with the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the Ohio Department of Education, Hemlock Films has released the first installments of its Why I Fly series: an ongoing series of short videos highlighting pilots and active members of the aviation community to hear about their passions and why they fly. Each mini-episode is an engaging snapshot into the pilot’s life, and the excitement they exude is contagious.

Why I Fly is created by an award-winning team of Director/Cinematographer Adam White and Producer/Director Kara White. Adam is a pilot and has been involved in Emmy-winning projects such as The Restorers, Red Tail Reborn, and Space Chase USA. Kara was producer for The Restorers—They Were All Volunteers, a documentary for the Texas Flying Legends, and the historical aviation film Rise Above for the Red Tail Squadron’s traveling exhibit. The team’s passion for aviation, history, and storytelling shines bright in this new series.

“We want to see that enthusiasm for flight again, to bring back the magic, by highlighting people who already feel it,” states the series website. “Why I Fly interviews people in everyday walks of life telling their aviation story; why they fly, or have aviation be a part of their life. We hope that if you are just sparking an interest in aviation or a long-time veteran, these videos will inspire you to keep flying.”

AOPA is proud to participate in this project by being involved in air-to-air shots with Cirrus Aircraft for an episode, sharing in the vision of the possibilities of aviation this series demonstrates. So far, 12 pilots have been featured, and more episodes are set to be released soon. The creators are soliciting new stories on their website.

Cirrus Aircraft delivery pilot Jenna Achtzehn with a company aircraft for an episode of Why I Fly. Image courtesy of Hemlock Films.

“My favorite thing about aviation is sharing it,” says interviewee Jenna Achtzehn, a delivery pilot for Cirrus. Her sentiment is echoed by every pilot featured. Each one presents a diverse and creative look into the many ways to catch the flying “bug,” and truly drives home the point there is something here for everyone. As the pilots talk about their individual journey to aviation and why it is so enchanting to them, one thing becomes clear: These are not casual, in-your-spare-time pilots. Each one lives and breathes aviation in a unique way, from Gabriella Orme—student pilot and Civil Air Patrol cadet who started her own aviation welding business—to Mike Cuy, engineering technician at NASA Glenn Research Center in Ohio, who waxes poetic about the joys of open-cockpit flying in his homebuilt Pietenpol Air Camper.

High school band teacher Emily Bowling achieved her dream of being a pilot and aircraft owner in her 30s, and now spreads the love of flying to her students as an FAA-certificated ground instructor. “It’s such an exhilarating feeling to get to see the Earth from above and kind of leave all of the troubles of the Earth behind, and just get to see the world from a different view,” she says. The candid, personal atmosphere is a theme throughout the series—a one-on-one chat interspersed with everyday scenes.

“At this point, I do have interests other than aviation, but I can’t remember what they are,” Julia Holmberg, flight instructor and apprentice mechanic, says, laughing. Growing up around airplanes (her father was her flight instructor), her life since childhood has been progressing from interest to hobby to career. “I fly almost every day…it’s worth every penny and every single amount of effort that’s been put into it.”

Other pilots interviewed so far include air racers and flight instructors Laura Wilson and Alex Johnson of Kent State University; barnstormer Dewey Davenport; warbird mechanic Larry Utter; aviation museum volunteer and pilot Amy Lauria; and Delta Air Lines pilot, flight instructor, and Commemorative Air Force volunteer Chris Van Nostrand.

The Why I Fly series is sure to inspire both new and longtime aviators with a joy and passion summed up in the words of Jim Lauria, aviation mechanic in the Air National Guard who has three paying jobs in aviation, volunteers with CAF, and still finds more ways to get involved.

“I haven’t found a point where I’m sick of it, at all,” he says.

—By Emma Quedzuweit, an AOPA editorial assistant who is a private pilot and historical researcher.

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