August 1996

Dear Amelia,

Today was my first day of flight school and I feel like my head might explode. I studied the pre-assigned reading and I thought I was prepared for the first day of Aeronautics class. Boy was I wrong. Within the first fifteen minutes, the professor left me in the propeller wash. The instructor did ask a question I thought I knew, but when I raised my hand, I had no idea how wrong I was. Apparently the blocks that go around airplane’s nose wheels aren’t called chokes, but chocks. (I feel like choking my neck out of embarrassment.) The professor is a girl like me (a woman, I mean) and she smiled wide and winked as my male classmates cracked up. She quickly changed the subject—an attempt, I think, to smooth over my misstep. I have to admit I was surprised that we’re the only females in the class. Funny, since at orientation the administration said they had more girls this semester than ever before. I haven’t seen any other ladies around campus though. Maybe they’re studying different degree programs. I’m sure back when you were training, you had a similar experience. I guess I’m lucky to live with three other girls. Speaking of living quarters, the four of us stay in a complex about a mile from campus, since the on-campus dorms are for boys only. My roommates and I share a two bedroom, one-story apartment. I split a room with a girl from North Carolina, whose car’s license plate says “First In Flight.” Very cool, especially when you’re going to be an airline pilot. I’m lucky to have her as a roomie since she’s already taken a bunch of flight lessons. I hoping she won’t mind sharing her experiences and helping me with the lingo. I’ve decorated my half of the bedroom in hot pink and white: A futon with cabana striped sheets and a white paper floor lamp that looks like the umbrella-type photographers use. As a going away gift, my parents gave me a Top Gun movie poster and I’ve tacked it on the wall over my bed. The hairs on my arms still stand every time I glance at the picture. The other two girls I live with split a similar room across the hall. I haven’t really gotten to know them yet. It’s only been a couple of days and we don’t have any classes together so far. There’s only one tiny bathroom in our apartment, and I heard that the girl studying engineering is making a shower schedule. I noticed a sign saying our apartment has an intramural volleyball team. If my studying schedule permits, I might see if my roommates want to volunteer to play on the team. Speaking of studying, I have at least four hours of homework, so I better sign off.

I’m trying to picture myself in your boots and imagine what the first day of flight school was like for you 72 years ago. Did you see any other girls? I wonder.

Thanks for letting me bend your ear.

Sincerely,

A girl with a lot to learn.