Follow your passion
Flight instructor Alyssa Manning marveled at the idea of flight as a child, flew her first plane at the Ohio State Airport and now relishes instructing and inspiring aviation students every day.
“When did you decide you wanted to be a pilot?”
Some days when I’m asked this, I remember flying as something upon which I have always been reliant. I reminisce on my childhood flying the airlines as an “unaccompanied minor.” Airplanes were never tools to be taken for granted; they were a technological marvel. This magical machine quickly bridged the geographical gap between loved ones and facilitated prompt returns.
I flew all the time when I was younger. Airplanes were a miracle to me.
Some days when I’m asked the same question, I remember flying as my calling, something fated that began with a summer in Oklahoma. I lived close to Vance Air Force Base. One thing led to another, and my father’s connections allowed us to tour the base and eventually the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I flew a simulator, and the pilot accompanying us exclaimed that I was a natural. When I was young, I loved being a natural. It helped sway my vote in some of the most difficult decisions when something felt intuitively “right” to me.
In March 2012, I took my first flight at The Ohio State University Airport in a Cessna 152. I remember so vividly the new and exhilarating feeling of controlling your own motion in three dimensions. That was all it took. My passion for aviation developed how one would imagine the deepest loves would — slowly, and then all at once. It was, at first, an interest of mine in which I was privileged enough to commonly partake. The further I progressed through my pilot training, the more flying became an integral, rather than supplementary, part of life. I am blessed with the opportunity to fly each and every day as a flight instructor and a skydiving pilot.
When I chose piloting, I took a chance for great reward at the expense of great consequence. Despite the financial burden that would surmount throughout training and the effect constant travel would have on my life in the future, I prioritized my passion. Arguably, it is the smartest path I could have taken. External pressures do not hold the weight they otherwise would for me — I am happy.
Three and a half years after my first flight, I am giving back to the school that taught me how to fly by teaching Ohio State aviation students. Flight instructing is not a glorifying job; rather, it’s humbling. By title, I’m a flight instructor. But I realize that my job, fundamentally, is not necessarily teaching people to fly. My job is to show people how to share my passion, how to become excited about and appreciate the miracle of flight. My job is to inspire.
We have many students who are eager to progress and will drop everything to get a few more hours in the air. I love having students who couple this same zeal with adventurousness. There are students who care not only about the hours, but about the destination as well. They will take a trip just to stop at the destination airport to talk to the fellow aviators, make meaningful connections and eat a meal or a piece of pie.
In my training, I treated myself to a 21st birthday flight to visit all of the best pie destinations in the state and have a piece at each. Some students plan their flights specifically to have fun and enjoy their training while "checking the box," so to speak. Flight training is a unique situation for most aspiring professional pilots because it's the only time during their early career when they can plan their own flight and destination. I love to see students appreciate and take advantage of this reality. I believe that the future looks especially bright for them, because they truly love the path they have chosen to pursue.
Especially as a young woman in an aging and male-dominated industry, I hold this implicit job in the highest regard. I make efforts to actively grow as a person and progress in my career each day, driven by a desire to become an example to other young aviators and aviatrixes who wish to pursue the seemingly unattainable dream of professional piloting. I hope to ultimately demonstrate that the inevitable hardships along the way are small prices to pay to follow your passion and achieve happiness and fulfillment in your work.