Every time I hear “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons, I can’t help but to think of where I was where I first heard that song.
It was a cold March in 2018 and I had just finished ferrying a Cessna 210 across the ocean to the Netherlands. It was my very first winter crossing, which started in February 2018 with my assistant chief pilot at the time whom I was training, Marcus Narcisse. Unfortunately, along the way we spent 4 days in the arctic with a mechanical issue in Iqualuit due to a mechanic’s error. Due to the delay, the weather had turned and there wasn’t going to be another window across the ocean for a few weeks, which is normally atypical since it’s often too cold in February/March to pick up ice but it was an unusually warm winter. With only a normally normally aspirated piston aircraft without flight into known icing protection, we had to wait it out for better weather and the cycle to flip over the North Atlantic. We ended up leaving Iceland and during the 2 weeks back in the USA, I attended the annual Women in Aviation conference held in Las Vegas. I had been trying for the 737 type rating scholarship for 2 years, having interviewed the year before and narrowly missing the award. I was trying so hard to make it to the major airlines, doing everything I could. I watched as the people around me with less experience got hired on, wondering when it was my turn and when I could stop taking the high risk ferry jobs. So for the 2nd year in a row, I interviewed at Women in Aviation for the International Society of Women Airline Pilots 737 type rating scholarship for the 2nd year in a row, and then headed out straight to Iceland afterward to finish the Cessna 210 ferry solo.
I had prayed hard for good weather, and for the first crossing in my life, actually had clear skies all the way to Iceland. I made it uneventfully to Rotterdam and then took the train to Amsterdam, where I decided to explore for a few days for a mini vacation after the trip. I found myself at the Ice Bar in Amsterdam, which is a popular tourist destination with a bar and seating area made exclusively of ice. I met a very nice couple from Sweden and we ended up hanging out. After exiting the ice bar, I sat down at the bar and heard “Whatever it Takes” for the first time, and pulled out my app to figure out the title of the song to download it. I then saw a voicemail on my phone from the scholarship coordinator. I had won the 737 scholarship! It was the first step in a series of events that eventually led me to interview and get hired on with my dream airline, and eventually start crossing the ocean in 757s and 767s instead of Cessna 210s.
Whenever I hear that song, it reminds me of the challenge, resilience, and triumph when I faced an uncertain time when I was worried about my future and career. It’s a stark reminder of how I tried my best, was turned down with significant defeat multiple times, and didn’t give up; and finally made it to my dream. And the song “Whatever it Takes” had just become my motto – something to remind me of how I continued doing what it took to accomplish my dream. I know many of you out there are feeling the same now – knocked down, challenged, and wondering about your career and future. If there was one word to summarize the entire pilot career, it would be “resilience.” This career is full of challenges and defeats, but in the end, resilience will triumph.
Sarah is currently a FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, NAFI Master Instructor, Gold Seal flight instructor, and 757/767 pilot for a Major U.S. airline. Sarah holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 6400 hours. She holds a pilot license in 4 different countries (USA, Canada, Belize and Iceland – EASA) and has flown over 147 different types of airplanes in 20 different countries including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She is the owner and chief pilot of FullThrottle Aviation; which started out in 2013 as a small flight school and grew to an international business with over 20 pilots moving airplanes around the world today. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through her leadership roles and volunteering for different aviation organizations. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she enjoys flying and instructing in her Super Cub, Patches, and her Cessna 170, Stanley, on her days off. As a regular fly-in attendee of Oshkosh, she enjoys the company and camaraderie that general aviation brings.