Jessica Scott ’20 Breaks Boundaries in Piloting as a Woman of Color
Growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, Scott lived near the largest naval base in the world. Because both her father and grandfather were pilots, she has been able to meet people from all around the world who support her.
Scott said, “My dad is chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.) festival where I live. There’s a small headquarters where I live and through that, I get to meet a lot of people from foreign air forces, and a lot of them are just so supportive of young people who want to become pilots. I’ve gotten to fly with the head general of the French Air Force, which is pretty sick, and it’s through my dad’s job that I got into flying.”
Scott continued, “My favorite thing about flying is—it sounds really cliché—how free it is. There’s nothing really like it. You can go skydiving and I guess that’s similar, but driving or riding a boat aren’t. It’s so cool to be so high up and be able to see everything and it’s just exhilarating and freeing.”
Sometimes Scott feels discouraged as a woman of color trying to become a fighter pilot, given how male-dominated the job is. According to The New York Post, only about six percent of all pilots in the U.S. are female.
Scott said, “Being a girl who wants to be a pilot, then a girl who wants to be a fighter pilot, then a girl of color who wants to be a fighter pilot, is just a triple disadvantage in a way. I’ve talked to so many people, who are mostly older male pilots, and they say that I won’t be welcome in the community. And it’s not even out of malice, it’s just a warning since they know what it’s like. There have definitely been moments where I’ve been somewhat discouraged, but then I get to meet all these people through my dad’s job who are so supportive and offer to take me flying. Just like in anything, there are moments where you want to give up, but then you meet people who are so inspiring.”
As an Upper at Andover, Scott has had to balance her passion for flying with her classes and other activities. Because of her training, she has had to give up certain opportunities to work and learn during the summer.
Scott said, “This summer, I had to give up opportunities for jobs and internships to get my pilot’s license. That’s been tough because there are so many things I want to do. I always found this kind of funny, but I learned to fly a plane before I learned to drive a car, which is kinda weird if you think about it. I feel like that’s pretty descriptive of where I’m at with flying, since I put it before so many things, even though I shouldn’t all the time.”
This summer, Scott is looking forward to training at the Air Force Academy, which her dad dropped out of. She hopes this can help prepare her for becoming a fighter pilot later in life.
Scott said, “Looking to the future, I’m going to a summer seminar at the Air Force Academy in June for about a week, and you go to the Air Force Academy and learn what it’s like to be a cadet. You don’t get to fly your way there since they wouldn’t let 16-year-olds fly. I’m really looking forward to that, just to see what it’s like. My dad and his dad went there, so it’s interesting.”
Connor Nee ’20 Takes Flying Inspiration from Grandfather
Connor Nee ’20 has always looked up to his grandfather, who served in the Air Force. Fascinated in his youth by airplanes taking off and landing, Nee decided to follow this path.
Nee said, “From age eight, I decided I wanted to be a pilot, and that’s what I want to do in the future. Finally this year, my parents let me start taking flight lessons, and I’ve been taking them out of Beverly Municipal Airport. I started last summer, and I have roughly 45 hours of flight time now, so I’m above the legal limit to get my pilot’s license.”
Nee said, “My favorite thing about flying is when I go up alone, I’m all by myself up there and I take off and everything gets really tiny below me. Everything looks small, and it gives me a sense of control. It’s really great to be able to fly where I want and practice maneuvers. Also, landing’s really fun, because the ground comes at you pretty fast. It’s sometimes a little nerve-wracking to land since I’ve had some sticky situations of high winds or botched landings where I’ve had to go around and redo it, but it’s all a learning experience.”
Flying has given Nee an opportunity to try things he is never done before. While he does not always think he is ready for it, it always turns out to be a valuable learning experience.
Nee said, “A couple of weeks ago, I took my first solo from Beverly to Portland. I soloed there, and it was my first ever long-distance solo. It was really interesting since I had to talk to the towers of different airports and follow their directions. I was kinda thrown into it since I didn’t think I was ready at the time but I ended up doing it anyway.”
Nee also plans to make a career out of his passion for flying and hopes to serve his nation in the Air Force or Navy. While his focus is on school right now, he will resume training to become a pilot during the summer.
Nee said, “I try to get to flight school as much as I can. Right now, I’m just trying to manage to study for the flight exams, since I need to pass those to get my private pilot’s license, but I’ve put that on the backburner for now until summer hits. Personally, I want to join the service and hopefully fly for the Air Force or the Navy. That’s where I can see myself going, and then eventually I want to become either a private pilot or a commercial pilot.”