Hello Aviatiors! Below is Paulina Gacek’s Why I Fly story! You can find Paulina on Instagram @skylininha.
Country you are flying in?
Having completed my PPL in South Africa flying the Sling 2 aircraft, I returned there to hour- build such that I would have enough flying hours to commence a ME CPL & IR course. Before then I needed to complete the 14 EASA ATPL theoretical examinations and chose Bristol Ground School (UK) as my training provider. I was delighted to receive my final exam results in Dec 2015 and have since embarked upon an integrated ME CPL & ME IR flying training course with a professional Flight School located on the south coast of England.
What is General aviation like in your country?
South Africa is an amazing place for GA and boasts the very best ingredients for flying…… Beautiful (reliable) weather, stunning vistas of the African landscape, nature and wildlife viewable ‘from above’ and extremely good value for money. In fact, I recall that at most of the airfields I flew into, there were no landing fees at all! Aircraft hire rates are also very competitive when compared to other countries but, above all else, I think it was the African attitude to GA flyers that really stood out. GA is actively encouraged and I was made to feel so welcome by my flying school and all of those I met and worked with whilst undertaking my training.
My career began as airport ground staff at a local airport in Poland. I then qualified as cabin crew for Etihad Airways before progressing to VIP flight attendant for a private jet company based in Saudi Arabia.
Why you got into aviation?
Shortly before my third birthday (on the 6th June 1993 actually!), my mother took me for a flight in a light aircraft over and through the mountains of Poland, where I grew up. Whilst I know that the scenery would have provided a truly spectacular view, I find it interesting that I cannot recall what I saw very well, apart from thinking that buildings looked like my toy LEGO models! However, what I clearly do remember, and can regenerate in a heartbeat each time I fly or simply think about flying, is a deep and overwhelming feeling of happiness, freedom and inner comfort being in the airborne environment. So, given the personal impact of that life experience, it is understandable that, for 22 years now, I have been consumed by my desire to become a pilot; with every cell in my body, I know that flying is something I was born and, moreover, meant to do. Flying simply brings so much beauty, magic and satisfaction that a day will not pass without me thinking about it and I absolutely know that I will never have enough of it.
What is your Dream Plane?
I am definitely a “Gulfstream Girl” and would love to fly the G650 myself one day.
Favorite aviation story?
A particular story that stands out happened whilst I was hour building in South Africa. Having completed many short and medium length trips, I decided to push myself further and exploit the Sling’s impressive endurance by flying a long distance cross country flight, totaling about 7 hours. Staring at my charts for some time, I eventually drew a line from Johannesburg to Durban and began to plan. At first sight, it looked a long way to fly with some particularly challenging terrain along an extremely remote route to navigate through. There were so many “what ifs” to think about but these all added to the sense of adventure and I was determined to achieve the aim. The trip itself was amazing. I departed early and worked hard to keep on-track and safe. The mountains actually reminded me of my very first flight in Poland – it was very poignant moment and seemed almost too good to be true. Landing in Durban, the sense of achievement I felt was unforgettable. I decided to reward myself with a quick swim in the ocean followed by some amazing seafood at a beachside Portuguese restaurant. It couldn’t have got any better! My flight back to Johannesburg was as challenging as it had been in the morning and I knew that I had to keep concentrating and maintaining my flying accuracy and routines. When I eventually called “field in sight” I began to relax and, having put my Sling to rest, I returned to my accommodation where I relaxed and reflected on what had been a simply amazing day and an unforgettable part of my flying love story!
Favorite aviation photo?
I have no idea who took this photo but every time I look at it a smile appears on my face. Flying has always been associated with freedom and what could be more ‘free’ than taking an aircraft away for a weekend, landing wherever you like, pitching your tent and camping in the middle of nowhere! Maybe if I had seen this picture before my adventure to Durban, I would have tried something similar en-route! Well, for now still on my to-do list.
Age you started training?
I was 23 when I had my first intro flight on a PA28-181.
Age you finished training?
I am 25 now and I am hoping to fly my CPL test flight on my 26th birthday. What a birthday celebration that could be! Fingers crossed!
Favorite plane you have flown?
Without doubt the Diamond DA 42 Twin Star. It really was love at first sight and I am enjoying every second of my time at the controls of this amazing aircraft. I am really pleased that I chose to complete my professional flight training on the DA 42.
How has flying changed your life?
Flying has totally changed my life… Although I appreciated the opportunity to study whilst in Poland, there was something missing – a passion for the subjects I was studying and I often questioned my motives and future career path. I knew that I wanted to fly, the passion was there but, without taking large financial loans to pay for the training, it seemed an impossible dream. Then, one day, I just woke up and decided to find a way to make it happen. It is hard changing your life’s direction but once you set your mind to it then you can achieve the “impossible” and flying has made me a determined, focused and brave person. Chasing my dream I decided to become cabin crew as I wanted to be part of the aviation world as soon as possible. It was a good decision as I have since travelled the world, met lots of inspiring people – all part of my flight path towards making my dream come true!
What is your dream for your aviation career?
I would love to fly private jets and the ultimate would be to hold a command on a beautiful Gulfstream G650. It would be great if I had some spare time to learn the art of aerobatic flying and enjoy competitive aerobatics. I would also like to achieve a helicopter license. Longer term, I would like to settle with a major national airline and progress to the position of training captain – a career in aviation is my dream.
Any advice you would recommend to current or future aviators?
Aviation presents a unique set of challenges and future aviators must be alive to the fact that they will experience failure, disappointment and frustration at some point in the journey. It is how you deal with these occasions that matters. We have all been there. The key is never to give up. When a bad happens think to yourself that I am now owed a good day! You will get there in the end and your aviation journey will make you a stronger and more capable person.
What do you think needs to be done to encourage more women to get into aviation?
Flying is addictive and if, as a young girl, I had been given the chance to fly with a female pilot who may have been building hours on her way to a professional flying career then I have no doubt that the example she was setting would have stayed with me. It is the way young people see pilots and the world of aviation that is important. I often think that qualified female pilots should take a more active role in encouraging aviation for girls during their early school years. Seeds have to be sown at the right time and a young girl, enjoying an air experience flight with a female pilot will undoubtedly lead to a change of perceptions in the long term and hopefully we will see far more females entering the Industry.
Do you think women in aviation are given a fair shot at a successful aviation career?
I have met so many inspiring and encouraging people in aviation and I honestly haven’t felt any real discrimination as a female pilot under training. There has been the odd occasion when I have heard an inappropriate comment regarding a female’s ability to be a pilot which I have simply ignored – Negativity energy that we can all do without. Gender does not matter. We all share the same passion. If you look back at the history of aviation, there are so many women who can be credited with amazing flying achievements and it is a little strange that even though women have been flying for so long, people can still think that gender is important. We can all inspire each other in so many ways and all have something to offer. I do like to see females in the cockpit and I am encouraged by the proactive approach of many airlines to increase the number of females they employ.
Thank you for reading Paulina’s story! – Interested in sharing your story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org