AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 22

FLYING LIFE

The right stuff-
Do you have it?

BY NATALIE BINGHAM HOOVER

Hint: You do
"I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'Uh oh,
they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.'"
-Maya Angelou
"WHAT GOT YOU INTO FLYING?" That's every pilot's

favorite icebreaker. When I was working for the airlines, on those two- or three-day stretches crewing an
aircraft with a stranger, the question inevitably came
up. Nine times out of 10, the answer is the same: People
get into flying because they know someone, an uncle or
a father or a family friend who flies. It was the same for

Why is it that I often find myself feeling
like I might not be good enough?

NATALIE BINGHAM
HOOVER is an
instrument- and
multiengine-rated
flight instructor with
more than 3,000
hours of dual given.

me...kind of. My father flew in the U.S. Air Force and
then at FedEx, so I was around aviation my entire life.
But the strange thing is that I never thought about flying myself until a high school friend invited me to ride
back seat during her flying lesson. It took someone who
looked like me, in age and gender and educational background, before I could really see myself in that pilot role.
I've now been flying full-time for 16 years, and I
have had opportunities to fly in all different parts of
our industry, including corporate, charter, and the airlines. I currently serve as chief instructor of a large
flight school, I have a regular column in a magazine that
reaches more than 300,000 readers each month, and
I'm one of only four FAA designated examiners in my
state. By all measures, most would call that a successful
career in aviation. I wonder why it is, then, that I often
find myself feeling like I might not be good enough?
That one day I will show up at the airport and everyone will realize that I actually don't have what it takes
to be a part of this prestigious community of people
who call themselves pilots.
My guess is that several of you have felt that way.
According to psychologist Pauline Clance, who first
coined the term "imposter phenomenon," up to 70 percent of people experience the belief that they are frauds
who have managed to achieve their success based on
a stroke of good luck. These people believe that they

22 | AOPA PILOT December 2020

simply don't possess what it takes to have earned the
success on their own, proving that the "right stuff"
mentality is alive and well-not just in our own aviation
industry but across the board, from poets and politicians
to the medical and law professions.
Clinical psychologist Emily Hu says, "We're more
likely to experience imposter syndrome if we don't see
many examples of people who look like us or share our
background who are clearly succeeding in our field." If
what she says is correct, then the imposter syndrome
could be a contributing factor to the continuing lack of
diversity in aviation. According to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 7 percent of commercial pilots are women, 3
percent African American, 7 percent Latino, and 4 percent are Asian. It's long been understood that people
need to have role models who look like them. In aviation, the numbers say that may be harder to find.
So, what do you do about it, if you're one of the people who experience this sometimes-crippling belief that
you're not as capable as everybody else? The first thing
is realizing that you are not alone. People from every
gender, culture, and economic background experience
this. In fact, one of my mentors in aviation, a white male
check airman at a major airline-who has worked at and
loved aviation every single day since college-has often
wondered whether he may, at some point, be exposed
as a phony. But when we discussed our mutual struggles with sometimes feeling inadequate, I think we both
walked away a little bit stronger. The second thing you
can do is invite someone out to fly, someone who may
not see themselves as a pilot without your invitation
and encouragement. Often, the best way to see past our
own troubles is to focus on helping someone else along.
Here's the bottom line: Aviation can be daunting.
Whether you are female, or Black, or under- or overprivileged, military-trained or homeschooled, learned
English as a second language, or came from whatever
other background you believe makes you inherently
unsuited, you are wrong. The truth we need to take to
heart is this: If you love the way you feel the moment
you are being supported by invisible air molecules
rather than by solid ground, and you are willing to work
hard at learning and honing your skills, then you belong
here. There's a place for everyone in aviation.
AOPA
myaviation101.com


http://www.myaviation101.com

AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 8
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 9
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 10
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 11
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - 12
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - December 2020 - Cover4
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