Flight Training - August 2021 - 19

RICK DAHMS
FIVE QUESTIONS
BY JILL W. TALLMAN
CECILIA ARAGON
RELUCTANT AEROBATIC AVIATRIX
FLYING AIRPLANES SINCE THE 1990S,
Cecilia Aragon is the first Latina to earn
a spot on the U.S. Unlimited Aerobatic
Team, and she earned bronze medals at
the U.S. National Championships and the
World Aerobatic Championships. Flying
did not come easily, however. As a young
woman Aragon suffered from many phobias;
she would avoid getting on elevators
or even speaking to people for days at a
time. She agreed to take a flight with a
colleague in a Piper Archer, and from that
day she saw how flying could break open
her world. Aragon is a professor in the
College of Engineering at the University
of Washington in Seattle. She continues
to flight instruct and teach aerobatics,
and she particularly enjoys working with
fearful students.
How did you get started in aviation?
I was leading a really narrow life because
I was allowing my fears to take over. [Conquering
fear] is what flying is for me. That
is what the first step of learning how to fly
did for me.
Favorite aircraft? I mostly fly in a Super
Decathlon, which I believe is the best
aerobatic trainer around because it's a
taildragger and that's important to teach
you to connect and use your feet. You
need to be able to use all four of your
limbs to fly well.
Your biggest challenges? There's a
sequence of maneuvers you have to fly [in
aerobatic competition] and you have never
seen it before. You have 18 hours to look at
it and you're not allowed to practice it. It
was set up so that my plane just could not
do it. It didn't have the performance, so
the laws of physics said it was impossible
to fly it and succeed at it. I was sitting in
my hotel room and I remembered my dad's
voice...he would say, 'You can do it, just
keep trying.' I remembered what I was trying
to do was maximize my score, so it was
kind of a math problem. I could come up
with an algorithm of flying the maneuvers
that wouldn't be perfect, but I could maximize
the score and I practiced in my head
and I went out to the airport and I flew it
just the way I imagined it. It was the best
my plane could do; it was good enough to
make the team.
Favorite aviation-related activity? I
specialize in working with people are who
are afraid, people whose other instructors
have given up on. One of my students
called me up after 10 years and said he'd
gotten the instrument and commercial
and said, " I would never have gotten my
ratings unless I had you as a first instructor
because otherwise I would have been
too scared. " Or they call me up and say, " I
got into an accidental spin today, I heard
your voice in my head and I recovered. "
I want to be the voice of support that my
dad was for me. It only takes one voice.
Advice for students? If I can be ranked
among the top few pilots in the world, then
anybody with fears can learn to fly. They
don't have to do aerobatics, but they can get
into a Cessna or a Piper or one of these new
airplanes and they can learn to fly.
AOPA.ORG/FT
19
http://www.AOPA.ORG/FT

Flight Training - August 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - August 2021

Contents
Flight Training - August 2021 - Intro
Flight Training - August 2021 - Cover1
Flight Training - August 2021 - Cover2
Flight Training - August 2021 - Contents
Flight Training - August 2021 - 2
Flight Training - August 2021 - 3
Flight Training - August 2021 - 4
Flight Training - August 2021 - 5
Flight Training - August 2021 - 6
Flight Training - August 2021 - 7
Flight Training - August 2021 - 8
Flight Training - August 2021 - 9
Flight Training - August 2021 - 10
Flight Training - August 2021 - 11
Flight Training - August 2021 - 12
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Flight Training - August 2021 - 14
Flight Training - August 2021 - 15
Flight Training - August 2021 - 16
Flight Training - August 2021 - 17
Flight Training - August 2021 - 18
Flight Training - August 2021 - 19
Flight Training - August 2021 - 20
Flight Training - August 2021 - 21
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Flight Training - August 2021 - 23
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Flight Training - August 2021 - 26
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Flight Training - August 2021 - 30
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Flight Training - August 2021 - 40
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Flight Training - August 2021 - Cover3
Flight Training - August 2021 - Cover4
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