Reflections of Gratitude

How life's many turns and a conference changed my life.

Pia Bergqvist Breitling
If someone told me as a kid that I'd become a pilot I wouldn't have believed it.Pia Bergqvist

Landing on a beach or on a beautiful remote backcountry airstrip in an airplane equipped with fat tires. Flying in formation with some of the top airshow performers in the world doing loops and rolls in a sleek single-engine jet or a roaring round-engine T-6. Testing out the capabilities of some of the coolest new airplanes on the planet. Taking off from and landing on lakes in the untouched wilderness of Alaska. Being able to run down to the airport at any time to fly my own airplane.

If someone told me as a kid that I would have a chance to do even one of these things I would not have believed it. But as an aviation journalist, these are some of the perks that my job offers. There are no two days that are the same and many of them offer extraordinary adventures. As I take a step back to reflect on how lucky I have been in my career path there are so many people I would like to thank, from the instructors who taught me to fly to the people who entrusted me with amazing job opportunities to the countless friends in this wonderful industry who have supported me through the years. I truly love my job.

At last week's Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo I had an opportunity to reflect on how it all started as Dr. Peggy Chabrian, president and founder of Women in Aviation, asked me to join her for a segment on Sun 'n Fun Radio. The meeting brought me back to when I was a budding pilot, eagerly exploring the world of aviation.

I started flying in 1999 after dreaming for years of becoming a pilot — something I sadly wrote off as an impossible dream. Growing up in Sweden, I didn't have the luxury of being able to run down to a local FBO for a demo flight, and it was before the age of the Internet when researching career opportunities was much more difficult than it is today. Unfortunately my gender was another personal barrier. I had never even heard of a female pilot at the time.

Fortunately, as I grew older and (hopefully) wiser, and moved to a country that is more supportive of general aviation activities, I realized that the dream of flight was in fact achievable. As I was delving deeper into my new career path in 1999, I found that Women in Aviation International (WAI) was offering scholarships for students and experienced pilots alike. To help me learn more about the field, I applied for a scholarship to attend the 11th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference in Memphis, Tennessee. I was one of two lucky winners.

The experience was incredibly inspiring as I met women from all over the world who worked in various aviation fields, some of which were completely foreign to me. I learned about women flying anything from medevac to aerobatics to support missions in Africa. It was also the first time I had the pleasure of meeting female aviation journalists and learning of their rewarding careers. Little did I know that I would one day be fortunate enough to become one of them.

My initial career goal was to become an airline pilot, a dream that was shot down the day after I applied for my first airline job with the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. But I was fortunate to continue my career in general aviation instead. My career path has been nothing but traditional. But through the incredible friendships and connections that I've made through WAI, previous jobs and the many airshows I've been fortunate enough to attend I've landed a job that I could never have even dreamed of as a young child earning for the skies.

To those of you out there who are wondering whether your dream career can become reality, I say — yes, it can! If you follow the path of your passion you may find a job that goes beyond your wildest imagination.

Thank you, Dr. Chabrian, for the amazing work you and your organization do to not only inspire women to enter this male-dominated field but also to provide a path to get there through your many scholarships.

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