By Christina Cathcart/Around&About editor
There are two kinds of people on this Earth: those with their feet on the ground and those with freer spirits. As one of Eastern’s 149 aviation majors, Brandy Wilson is decidedly a woman who enjoys a less grounded lifestyle. Wilson, an Honors student from Mount Washington, is joining the still largely male-dominated field of aviation after graduating in December.
“A career in aviation will be great. I’ll be getting to do something I love to do and get paid for it,” Wilson said.
Wilson, the aviation department’s Distinguished Senior this year, came to Eastern on an academic scholarship and with a clear plan to major in aviation, despite her eleventh-hour interest in flying.
“I always liked being on airplanes, but I didn’t even think about going into aviation until I took a flight lesson on my 17th birthday,” Wilson said. “That was my first lesson. It was something my mom wanted me to get into.
“It’s so funny to look at those before and after pictures. I’m standing in front of the airplane thinking ‘I can’t believe she took me out here,’ before, and then I came back down afterwards and felt the complete opposite,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she hopes to get her little sister, Samantha, 10, excited about flying as well once she is old enough. She thinks her sister will enjoy the experience of flying for the first time just as much as she did.
“I enjoy just flying on the airlines, but flying the plane yourself is so much different. You’re in control of everything and it’s an awesome feeling,” Wilson said.
“When you go up, you’re so far away from everything that it gives you a sense of freedom.”
Wilson is one of 15 women in the aviation program this year. According to Anthony Adams, chair of the department of aviation, women have consistently been enrolling in Eastern’s aviation program, albeit in small numbers, since its conception as a minor in 1983.
The national enrollment average for women in aviation programs is about three percent: Adams said Eastern’s enrollment has consistently been significantly higher than that average — around 8 to 10 percent — which is likely because Eastern has the only four-year professional flight program in the state.
“It’s always been a guy’s thing until recently,” Wilson said. “Today, a lot of it is just personal choice. A lot of women wouldn’t want to have kids and then be gone for two weeks at a time.
“I don’t want to go on long trips and leave my family at home,” Wilson said.
It is for those reasons, among others, Wilson has considered working in airline safety after graduating as opposed to strictly working as a pilot. She thinks, however, that she would miss flying too much if she stopped entirely.
“Some people, when they’re having a bad day, want to just get out and drive,” Wilson said.
“I feel that way about flying. If I’m having a bad day, I can go up in the air and just forget about everything for a while.
“I love to fly.”