Happy Mother's Day: Pilots Pay Tribute


Mothers are the cornerstones of our families and our communities. On Mother's Day, we honor the incredible women who strive and sacrifice every single day to ensure their children have every opportunity to pursue their dreams.

In honor of Mother’s Day, members of the AOPA Pilot Protection Services community came together to reflect on how their maternal figures played a part in their aviation journeys. We received an incredible amount of sentiments and wish we could share them all. Here are a few of the stories.

Shaun Murphy, Commander, USN, #8882357

My aviation journey began 28 years ago when I enlisted in the Navy. I was young and aspired to one day earn the privilege to be a Naval Aviator. Before being able to earn that privilege, however, I had to first earn the privilege of being an officer. This seemed like an impossible goal at the time! The selection process was very competitive and had it not been for the support of my Mother and her belief that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to, I never would have had the confidence to even start what has turned out to be the journey of a lifetime! Her steadfast belief in me and her constant reassurance and support have been the cornerstone to my achievements.
Read more of Shaun's story

Liz Lekarczyk, #5190134

I was always begging my mom to take me for a flight, or at least sit with me at the hangar and watch the planes take off. When we would fly, she would turn to me, smile and say “One day, YOU will be the one flying ME around!” Two weeks after my 16th birthday, I drove to the airport for my first flying lesson and finally had the opportunity to sit at the controls of an airplane. I kept taking lessons after school, as well as during the weekends, staying up late to finish all of the last minute homework that was due the following day. I experienced many setbacks during that time, such as having double jaw replacement surgery, but my mom was always there to support and encourage me. With her continuous support, I received my PPL three days before my 19th birthday.
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Mick Seemann, #6221022

My mother, Kitty Banner Seemann started K2 Aviation in the late 70s operating out of Talkeetna, Alaska; flying hikers, hunters and other sportsman on and off of Mount McKinley, also known as Denali. She would land on floats, skis or wheels. A tailwheel that is. Kitty was one of the pioneering women of bush flying in Alaska. To this day, her voice is an octave lower than the average female. Unbeknownst to me for years, she explained that she trained herself to speak with a deeper tone so that she would sound more like a male over the radio, simply to be treated fairly in the skies. Despite living in a man's world, she ran a successful operation and kept clients safe while navigating throughout the alpine terrain.
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Lawrence West, #1278285

The acknowledgment I received from my mom gave me the confidence and drive to continue on with my flying career. I am now a flight instructor and try to give back to aviation what it has given to me, all the while remembering that without her intervention, it might never have happened at all.
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Steve Burney, #6118584

I have always, for as long as I can remember, been in love with airplanes. I read all of the books I could find at the library that had anything to do with airplanes. I also used to ride the bus to the Palm Springs airport to watch the planes come and go (back in the day before X-Ray checks when people were allowed to walk right up to the gate). Mom was always encouraging my independence, allowing me to ride the bus alone to the airport. On Sunday mornings, she would even let me ride my bike to the park where the R/C club flew. In my early teens, my parents helped me afford the cost of my first model R/C plane when my paper route money wasn't enough to cover it.
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Bob Ibinez, #1445595

Mom was there for my first solo. She was my first passenger when I got my private. Although we had little money, mom was there to help me move up to a larger plane by contributing from her pension plan. Mom was always there for me, picking me up, dusting me off and encouraging me to press on. Thanks to mom, I had a fantastic aviation career; flight instructing my way through college, flying for the Navy, as a corporate pilot, owning my own flight school, retiring from one of best and largest world airlines, flying all over the U.S. and world, and I still fly today. I could have never accomplished this without the Lord giving me the best loving, self-sacrificing mom any child could ask for!
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Charles West, #856537

Mom had a mind as sharp as a tack, continuing to do crossword and word puzzles until the end of her life. Looking back, it is easy to see where I get many of the innate skills needed to engage in my love of flying.
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Nancy Frankel Pierce, #8694166

A very long time after I got my private license I was offered the chance of a lifetime to buy the most amazing plane I had ever laid my eyes on. It is an EAA Grand Champion, and I have been its very proud owner for more than 30 years. But, when the offer was made, I did not have enough money to complete the purchase on my own. I called my parents, and my mother immediately suggested that she would loan me the majority of the shortage. My father and brother joined in, and I was able to complete the transaction. It took several years to pay off that debt, but I cheerfully made monthly payments until N14LB was 100% mine. Mom kept up with my flying and was always interested to hear about it.
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Jon Strohmeyer, #1144984

Looking back, my mother was pretty brave. I received my flying license at age 17 in Slidell, Louisiana. Shortly after doing so, my mother very enthusiastically jumped in the Cessna 172 with me to fly to visit my aunt in Gulfport. While it was not a long flight, it was quite a trip for me. She was my first passenger! My parents paid for my training and I can't thank them enough. My dad is no longer around for me to thank, but my mother is. Thanks mom! Flying has added an additional dimension to my life, and to that of my friends and family too.
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Ron Paliughi, #203165

My Mom was a worrier but she let me take flying lessons even though she was deathly afraid for me. She would occasionally secretly park at the runway end and watch the son she raised clatter over her car in a tired old Champ on my unsupervised solos. My Mom is 89 now and she has Alzheimer’s. I visit her every week; she doesn't remember letting me learn to fly. But, I always will. Thanks Mom, I'll be there for you now.
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Arnold L. Goldman, #1166111

My dear mother is gone now, but I take comfort in knowing that she gave me two things in the final years of her life: the chance to fly over NYC with her, and because of my ability to visit her rapidly by air to check in on her, she also gave me the ability to let her stay in the home she built with my father, and loved, until her final day. Thank you Mom! Happy Mother’s Day in heaven!
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Shelly Lesikar deZevallos, #07312073

I was actually flying up until I was 6 months pregnant in my husband's A36. My big ole’ belly and I were definitely one of those ‘memorable’ people getting out of an airplane. I remember flying into OKC about six months after the girls were born, when the line guy came up to me and said hello and asked me how the babies were. I asked him how he could possibly remember that. He said as politely as he could, “Well, ma’am, there aren’t that many pregnant women who fly their own airplanes.” I want my girls to do whatever they want to do. Little Sarah has said over and over again that she wants to be an astronaut. I believe that giving her the same lessons I’ve learned through flying will help her become an astronaut.
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Gregg Lubbe, #1163821

My mother Helen, now 92, is still alive and “with it”, she has been tortured by me and my brother’s careers, as pilots. Both she and my son’s mothers attend ever single event and departure, while waving their proud mommy flag, taking credit for every step of success, while simultaneously slipping me that mommy “stink eye.”
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Elgene Woloszyk Doinidis, #135544

My mother, Phyllis Woloszyk, was supportive and amazed that I would become a pilot. It was only after I started to fly that she told me she had seen Amelia Earhart as a speaker when she was in college, imagine that! I would fly to my hometown, Posen, which is a small town in Northern Michigan, and fly over my parents’ home so she could see me "in the air". She was not interested in getting into the 152! When I bought my Mooney, the tail number was changed to N102PL, my birthdate, October 2 and my parents’ names, Phyllis and Louis Woloszyk, in honor of my parents.
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Dan Bullard, #1094413

The night of  my solo call, mom sat down and put all of her thoughts on paper. She has always possessed the gift of poetry, and marked special events in our lives through that portal. The poem hangs on my wall today, and reminds me of the love and encouragement that burst through her personal reservations of flying, to encourage me to pursue my dreams. It says...
Read the poem and more of Dan' story

Peter Andersen, #1007645

Forty-three years ago, I married my girl. Having two beautiful children was the easy part for this perfect spouse. Living in Wisconsin, AirVenture was the norm; however, she never saw what was coming. Fast forward to today, Susan is now the president of Plane Guys Aviation LLC, and manager of the Waupaca Municipal Airport. The family business is our daughter Beth, myself Peter, and of course the BOSS Susan. How many people can say they have a Mother and spouse that would give up the wages of the cooperate world and embrace the aviation world? I CAN!
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Paul Loschiavo, #2607119

When I was about fourteen, I was driving my parents’ nuts begging them to let me  "take flying lessons." Finally, after the four hundredth discussion about it, my mother said "fine, we'll go to the local airport tomorrow." I was way too excited to sleep much that night, and the next day, she drove me to Zahn's Airport in Amityville, NY.
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Ralph Eccles, 7215978

My mother had a hard time learning to drive, hated it and did not get her license until she was 18. At 20 she found that free flying lessons were available near her college. Males were obligated to serve in the Army, but nothing said only males could apply. She forced the issue, much to the horror of my grandmother, who had forbidden my grandfather from flying almost 10 years earlier when he crashed his Jenny (he flew Sopwith Camels in WWI.)
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Tom Olsen, #265451

My Mother's acceptance, encouragement and provision of funds for her son's crazy notion of completing his Private Pilot's Certificate before he headed off to college, was the launch that was required to allow me to eventually serve as a flight instructor, (I still have a current CFI), Accident Prevention Counselor, 14 CFR 135 Air Taxi Pilot, 14 CFR 121 Airline Pilot, check airman/instructor, and manager. Almost 22,000 hours later, I am eternally grateful to the Lady who made it all possible, my irreplaceable Mother.
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Don Santore, #1237545

I’m a 65 year old man who’s had a lifelong love affair with airplanes. “I was born loving them” is how I respond when asked how far back do airplanes and I go. I have distinct memories of my mom and me at different stages of my life regarding aviation.
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Ted Klapka, #1094413

My father was a naval aviator when attending a memorial service for a lost comrade was unfortunately a common occurrence. I had the opportunity to learn to fly at 16 through the Civil Air Patrol. My mother recognized the risks of aviation when she married my father, but the thought of her child learning to fly in bug smashers taught by piano teachers was difficult to bear. Regardless, she didn't dampen my enthusiasm and she supportively drove me to my flight lessons as I still didn't even have a driver’s license. Typically oblivious, as male teenagers are, only much later in life did I find out how nerve wracking this moment was for her. However, she hid that from me and diligently took me and my flying buddies to the airport. I had the opportunity to witness the same in my bride when my teenage daughter was learning to fly. My wife wanted to be present for my daughters solo but couldn't bear to watch. She wore big sunglasses to hide her angst. Thank you, Moms of aviators, you are a special breed.
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Pete Sanchez, #2201008

My mom, Nettie (Sanchez) Myers, inspired me to become a pilot when she won the Sportsman’s category IAC National Championship in 1979. She was the first woman to win the prize. She flew a Pitts S 2 A owned by John Morrissey and had only had her pilots license for 2 years. I have many fond memories of her flying my brother, sister, and me in a Grumman tiger to the Black Hills, or following my dad while he was flying a VariEze. She was a great pilot and I learned a lot from her about courage. I now get to fly her in my own RV-10, but I make sure she sits right next to me!
Read more of Pete's story

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