Central Texas student pursuing dream to become a pilot hopes to inspire other girls to enter male-dominated field
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Central Texas high school junior, inspired just a few years ago after taking a commercial flight with a female pilot, is now pursuing her dream of taking to the skies, and is hoping her story encourages other young girls to do the same.
Abbie Kuykendall, 17, attends Lake Belton High School in Belton ISD, and said a recent discovery flight, intended to familiarize a student with an airplane, sealed the deal for her when her instructor allowed her to take the controls above her high school.
“A couple of weeks ago., whenever I went on my discovery flight for Pegasus Flight School in McGregor, the flight instructor I was flying with actually let me take the wheel for a couple of minutes, so I technically flew a plane for the first time, and I really wasn’t expecting that,” she said.
Abbie soaked it all in flying over Lake Belton, her high school and many areas in Belton she recognized.
It was beauty, she says, unlike anything she’d ever seen before.
“On that flight I went all the way back to Temple, and I actually got to fly over my high school, and I got to see my neighborhood from the top, and I got to see the Belton Lake, and it was about 7 or 8, so the sun was actually setting by this time and it looked really pretty, and it was just a really beautiful thing to see,” Kuykendall said. “It was kind of unreal because I had never seen anything like it before.”
Being a pilot wasn’t a lifelong dream for the band leader considering a career as a pharmacy tech. Abbie grew up thinking the only way she could learn to fly was entering the military.
Abbie’s perspective changed when she took a commercial flight with a female pilot. She says her eyes were opened to females being in the driver seat of a male-dominated profession and she began researching flight schools.
“My dream to become a pilot actually started a couple of years ago whenever my family took a flight to Sacramento, California, on Southwest and our pilot actually ended up being a lady and seeing her be a pilot honestly empowered me,” she said. “It kind of struck something inside of me and I was like ‘if she can do it, I can do it. I can be a pilot.”
Abbie’s inaugural flight at Pegasus Flight School in McGregor was all she needed.
Abbie’s mom, April Sanchez, says she was a little surprised at first.
“The unique thing about it is there are no pilots in the family. That’s something unique. That’s not something we had in the family,” April said. “It’s just something she took upon herself. She’s had interest for over a year.”
Abbie plans to start flight school in the summer with a goal of becoming a commercial pilot.
She’s also hoping her journey inspires other young girls and women to take to the skies.
“I want to be the person people look up to and say ‘oh my gosh, she’s a pilot. That’s so cool,” she said.
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