Flight Training - June 2015 - 20

AROUND THE PATCH

By Heather Baldwin

LOVE STORY

SHE FLIES WITH HER OWN WINGS

KAREN ATKINS and her husband, Richard
Gilmore, in front of Atkins' Cessna 182.

A

t roughly 2,000 feet above ground level, Karen Atkins fell in
love. Her husband was sitting next to her when it happened,
but there was nothing he could do; Atkins was a goner. And no
wonder: it was a beautiful late spring morning in Atlanta. Trees
were blossoming. The skies were clear, the views were magnificent-and
her husband, Richard Gilmore, had no one to blame but himself.
It all started years before when the
couple, having combined households in
a real-life Brady Bunch situation-right
down to the six kids with matching
ages-determined they would give each
other only memories for birthdays,
anniversaries, and other occasions. For
Christmas 2012, Gilmore's gift to Atkins
was a 15-minute helicopter ride over their
Atlanta suburb. She decided to save it until
early June when flowers were in bloom.
It took only a few minutes in the air
for Atkins to fall headlong in love with
aviation. She wasted no time in pursuing
it. Driving through the Dekalb-Peachtree
Airport (PDK) after her ride, she spotted
a "Learn to Fly Here" sign. Moments later,
she had an appointment for an introductory flight.
This was all pure Karen. As the vice
president of sales at a Fortune 100 company, she is known for jumping fearlessly,
energetically, and headfirst into any

20 /

FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

challenge. Flying was no different. "The
[introductory] flight was magical," Atkins
said. "Listening to the radios, being in
the plane, rotating off the runway. Flying
grabbed me by the throat from the get-go."
She signed up for lessons that day.
Roughly nine months and 60 flight
hours into her training, she began looking
for an airplane to buy. She was thinking
she'd like a Cessna, perhaps a 182, and
ideally one based near PDK. Shortly after
beginning the search, Atkins was asleep
at their second home on Amelia Island,
Florida, when her husband called at 4
a.m. "Richard couldn't sleep and got on
Craigslist-Craigslist!-and he searched
'Cessna' and found a 182 for sale at PDK.
And guess what the tail number was?
759KA-my initials!" she said.
Atkins jumped in the car for the sixhour ride back to Atlanta, called the seller
as early as civility would permit, and
arranged to meet at PDK that morning.

The airplane was ideal: a brand-new
engine, updated avionics, spotless
interior-and old, faded paint that was
begging to be re-done just the way Atkins
wanted it. She closed the deal and became
an airplane owner four months before
earning her certificate in July 2014.
Today, Atkins has replaced "six hours
of drudgery on the road" with "a joyful
two hours" of flight when she commutes
between her homes. She is working on
an instrument rating and is passionate
about sharing flight with others. Recently,
she took up a 15-year-old boy who was
interested in becoming a pilot and, shortly
afterwards, a former administrative assistant who had asked tentatively if Atkins
would ever consider taking her flying. "I
said, 'Heck, yeah! Let's go!' I took her up
the next day and now she has an introductory flight scheduled."
She is also sharing her love of aviation
in her many talks to college students, professional associations, and other groups
as part of her work. "College students
want to hear about how I got to be VP of
sales at a Fortune 100 company," she said.
"The subject of my talks is now lifelong
learning and how you should always
be stretching to the next level. I also
just spoke to a group of business executives on leading high-performing teams
and wove in analogies about learning to
become a pilot."
Oh, and the paint on her airplane? She
developed a scheme that is executive in
style with one exception. Swirling tail lettering reads: Alis Volat Propriis. "She flies
with her own wings." Yes, she does-and
general aviation is reaping the benefits.
Heather Baldwin is a Phoenix-based writer and
commercial pilot.


http://FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

Flight Training - June 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - June 2015

Contents
Flight Training - June 2015 - Cover1
Flight Training - June 2015 - Cover2
Flight Training - June 2015 - Contents
Flight Training - June 2015 - 2
Flight Training - June 2015 - 3
Flight Training - June 2015 - 4
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Flight Training - June 2015 - Cover3
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