A list of firsts from my time at the National Flight Academy, Pensacola, Florida by Mia Doolin
Parentless for the first time:
August 4th was the day I left Ireland behind me, and began my adventure to the States. The whole challenge had been facing me all summer, and I must admit the prospect of being parentless in Pensacola was quite a daunting one. I would soon learn that the majority of those who attend the National Flight Academy suffer less from loss than their parents!
First time in the States:
We spent two days traveling to Florida. We flew Dublin to Atlanta and had a six hour stop over there, a good opportunity to spend our first few dollars, before boarding our flight to Pensacola. The U.S. was so alien and new to me – nothing like back home.
First experience of the incredible Southern hospitality:
Cheers and banners greeted us at Pensacola airport. Needless to say all twelve of us lucky participants were exhausted. I remember feeling quite self -conscious as the camera flashes started to go off, but the warmth and kindness of the staff of the NFA made the welcome incredibly enjoyable.
My first flight:
We attended the academy from 6 am to 10 pm each of the six days we stayed there. A wonderful breakfast of waffles and fruit was followed by an intensive day of – well- learning to fly. I can still remember my first disastrous flight. I nose-dived into the runway and flew through the air traffic control tower, before plummeting into the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll be glad to hear we weren’t flying real planes. They were state of the art simulators that gave you an incredibly realistic experience of flight, without running the risk of disaster. But before you could fly, you had to plan your route in the Joint Intelligence Center (JIC), on the amazing smart boards and computers. As well as flying, I spent some time in Air Traffic Control, patrolling the airspace making sure nobody tried to break the sound barrier over land. We would speak with the pilots over microphones and give them permission to take off, land etc. I really do love telling people what to do, so I must say the Air Traffic Control was a highlight for me. Other highlights include broadcasting Rick Astley over the microphones to other pilots as well as giving permission for barrel rolls.
My first air show:
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to see the famous Blue Angels acrobatic pilots preform on the airstrip just down the road from the Academy. Watching them was exhilarating, and they were fantastic. I really learned to appreciate the skills it took to achieve that kind of performance at my time in the Academy. The only part I didn’t like was when one of the Angels came out of nowhere, and flew roaring over my head. I thought it was the signaling of WWIII and, much to everyone’s amusement, screamed and dived onto the ground.
My time in the NFA was truly unforgettable. I appeared on NBC news Pensacola and ate my fill of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Who could ask for more? The Galway Education Center and the National Flight Academy have given me an experience that I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life. The intention is for this program to continue, and I cannot recommend the experience enough to you. Thank you also to Ms. Hickey who notified Kate and I of the program. It was a fantastic experience that I will always remember.