Airline Academy Pilot Stories

An Aviation Journey to Flight School Training: Mariah's Career Change Story

  • Article by Mariah VanTienderen - L3Harris cadet pilot
  • Published
  • Duration 3 minute read

My name is Mariah VanTienderen and today I’m sharing my aviation journey with you. A little background about myself; I am a wife and mother of two beautiful and energetic children. Before my aviation journey began I taught Math and PE at Middle and High School levels and coached multiple sports for almost 10 years.

At the beginning of the 2019/2020 school year I realized my chosen career was not satisfying me and I should be following my own advice. I was teaching seniors how to determine the best routes to pursue their dreams and encouraging them to do so, but I myself was dissatisfied with where I was. I struggled to come up with a way to change my career without putting too much stress on my family. While examining different options and fields to pursue I kept coming back to aviation and being a pilot. My family at least three generations back is full of pilots, navigators and air traffic controllers in both the military and civilian sectors. I had been interested in being a pilot when I was young but never pursued it because I thought it would be too hard to balance work and being a mom. I discussed it with my husband and spoke, in depth, with friends and their family members who are pilots about this career. This really helped me decide that becoming a pilot is what I wanted to do, now I had to work out; where to go and most importantly how would I pay for it?

I researched at least 5 different schools - both part 141 and part 61 - before one of our family friends advised to look at a specific 141 school in my local area in Florida. I visited the school and the Admissions Officer stayed late so I and my family could swing by after school/sports and check out the school. They even let my daughter sit in one of the new Piper Archers (she now says she wants to be a pilot like mommy). They were able to answer all of my questions and gave me resources for funding the education as well as information on how to apply for a flight school scholarship. The Admissions Officer was an amazing guide and helped me through the entire admissions process even though it took me a long time to complete everything as I was still a full time teacher and coach at the time. I still remember I was in class, minutes before the end of school when I got the call saying I had been a runner-up and awarded a partial scholarship, the students couldn't understand why I had such a large smile on my face. That scholarship is what pushed the scales enough to let me confidently push forward with the plan to change my career.

I was told to plan for at the least a 15-month long program but that it usually takes longer. I have been so blessed to be able to say that I have flown through my milestones at a pace I can be very happy with. Starting just days after I completed my teaching contract on June 4, 2020 I was in my first day of PPL training to become a private pilot. Four months later I successfully earned my wings on October 22, 2020. Another four months later on February 15, 2021 I completed my Instrument Rating. A mere three months later on May 14, 2021 I completed and earned my Commercial Rating. I am now in the rotation to complete the last tests to complete my Multi-Engine add-on less than a month later. I am also already enrolled in ground school for my Certified Flight Instructor Certification. This has all been completed in roughly a year starting with absolutely no flight experience, to being a commercial pilot.

I plan to complete this next course and I hope to be hired as a Flight Instructor. I will then continue to earn ratings such as CFII, MEI and ATP. This flight school has successfully done what they said they could, getting me through safely and quickly. In the not too distant future my goal is to be flying international flights for a major airline, and although I know who I want to fly for, I will keep that to myself for now!

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I am grateful to all of the people working behind the scenes that helped me successfully reach this point so quickly. Especially managers who never hesitate to help and listen even when I stop by unannounced.

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