Life List: Fly a Plane

Write it down. Make it happen. Live your dream. Colleen Chambers' life list.
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Colleen Chambers

Highlands Ranch, Colorado
Age 56
Mother of 3, veterinary surgical nurse

My Goals

Fly a plane
Learn Italian
Bicycle through Tuscany

The Essentials

Polarized sunglasses
Cessna 172 airplane
A good instructor

My Plan

From the time I was little I would stop what I was doing whenever a plane flew overhead and watch it until it was out of sight. That fascination never faded. I would always joke with my boss about how I was going to be a fighter pilot "when I grew up." Then for Christmas about five years ago he decided to take me at my word and gave me a gift certificate to Sky Fighters, an adventure flight program in Englewood, Colorado.

A pilot took me up in a two-person fighter plane, and we did loops and rolls and mock dogfights. I fell in love. I'd been divorced for nearly 10 years, my kids were grown -- I decided the time was perfect to do something for me.

I started taking flying lessons at a nearby airport and signed up for ground school, the book-learning part. I learned to fly on a Cessna 172, the basic training plane. The challenge is incredible. When you're flying you multitask: You have to watch the speed and altitude gauges and you have to navigate, map the weather, look out the window for traffic, and talk on the radio. The first time I soloed, six months after I started, I was so excited my knees were shaking. When I took off I had this huge smile on my face. I still feel the same exhilaration every time the wheels leave the ground.

What I Learned

Getting my license is by far the best thing I have ever done, my biggest accomplishment. When I was married and the kids were small, I didn't have a lot of opportunities to do what I wanted to do. Flying opened up the world to me: It taught me to trust myself and made me not afraid to try new things. Plus my children think it's cool that Mom's a pilot! Flying has also introduced me to amazing people. After I got my license I started working with an organization called LifeLine Pilots. Pilots volunteer their time, their fuel, and their plane to sick children and their families. I am the outreach coordinator and will start flying missions when I have all the hours I need to qualify.

Meanwhile I'm having a blast. Have you ever had a place in your heart that stayed empty until you finally found the perfect fit? For me that's flying. There's always something new over the horizon.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, April 2009.


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