Me: “I’m a 99.”
You: “What’s a 99?”
First and foremost, the 99s are women who love to fly! Established in 1929 by 99 women pilots, the Ninety-Nines is “an international organization of licensed women pilots from 44 countries. A non-profit, charitable corporation based in Oklahoma, the 99s is comprised of members who represent all fields of aviation. We are pilots in the private and public sector for the airlines and for the government. Whether we are pilots who are technicians and mechanics or pilots who teach or who fly for pleasure, “virtually all women of achievement in aviation have been or are current members of The Ninety-Nines.” To quote the 99s first president, Amelia Earhart, we fly “for the fun of it!”
I first learned about the 99s while I was still in flight training. Though I knew at the time that I could apply for a student membership, I decided to wait to apply after I had earned my pilot certificate. I held it out to myself as a reward for achieving my goal. After I passed my private pilot checkride, I purchased a Cessna 182 from the Civil Air Patrol. Two weeks later, with my high performance endorsement, I got to solo my own plane for the first time. Then finally, in the fall of last year, I sought out the 99s and attended my first meeting.
My introduction to the Chicago 99s was at Schaumburg airport in October 2017. It was well attended and I was fortunate to get acquainted with many of the members that first day. I found a rich and diverse group of women pilots – Older, younger, corporate/commercial, sport and private. I loved meeting kindred spirits who also look up every time a plane flies overhead. Since then, it has been wonderful to spend time with others who don’t get bored “talking plane” and who get just as excited as I do listening to a good landing story or a recent adventure.
Jamie Beckett wrote a wonderful article that highlighted the AOPA’s staggering research from 2011 that indicated a student drop-out statistic of 80%. Yep, only 2 of 10 student pilots complete flight training. How is that possible? There are many reasons why student pilots quit their training. When we look at why people succeed or fail at anything in life, without a doubt, as the AOPA points out, the richness of the community is a factor.