The following remarks were delivered at our recent Aviation Dreams Gala on November 12, 2016. Three young people whose lives intersected at Hiller Aviation Museum—participating in and delivering programs—spoke to an audience of Museum supporters about their experience. Installment 1 of 3.
Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m an aviation geek. A total plane nerd. The polite phrase is “very interested,” but if you asked my friends and family, they would use the word “obsessed.”
I didn’t always want to be an air traffic controller. When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian and later went to California State University, Chico for nursing. But, by the end of my first semester, I found that although I enjoyed nursing, I didn’t love it. That realization was a defining point for me, and I recognized that for me to be happy, I would need to find a career I loved. I needed to look forward to my work every day, and I would need to be challenged to be excellent.
I grew up about a mile from SFO and always had an interest in aviation. But from my point of view, aviation wasn’t a career that was open to me. It’s not that I was discouraged from pursuing it, but I didn’t let myself truly consider it. The industry is extremely male dominated for one thing. It is also heavily STEM-oriented, and math and science were not my favorite subjects in school, which led me to believe I wasn’t good at them. And that’s where Hiller Aviation Museum comes in.
One of my favorite experiences at the museum was when we had a field trip group of high schoolers from a low-income school in Monterey, who had recently been studying aviation. One young lady was explaining to me that this interested her, but that she felt somewhat alone and that she wasn’t sure she would succeed.
I too had been in that situation and I knew that sometimes words just aren’t enough to banish the feeling of not being good enough. At that point she and I listened to the live air traffic control at San Francisco Tower and watched the Lufthansa A380 roll gently into its left turn to line up for approach at SFO, and the commanding voice of Kerstin Felser, one of the first women to pilot the A380, checked on the frequency. “She’s flying that?” the student asked me and watched in awe as the largest commercial aircraft in the world, weighing 1.3 million pounds, cut gracefully through the sky. The student told me at the end of the day that she planned to be the first in her family to attend college, and intended to get her degree in aviation, realizing that she, in fact, did belong in this amazing community.
So to me, Hiller is not just a museum and the people aren’t just my colleagues, but my family. I was given a place where my dreams were reality. My museum family encouraged me at every step through my year-long Air Traffic Control Academy application. Now having passed the academy, I will continue to be a part of this family, as I complete my training over the next three years at the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center.
By giving to the museum, you’re not only helping preserve valuable aviation history, you’re also ensuring that children will have access to science, technology, engineering, and math. You’re the reason why our tomorrow will be brighter than our today. You’re the reason why a child will be empowered to achieve what was once impossible to them. You’re the reason why innovation and inspiration will thrive.
My name is Sarah Farney, I’m a developmental air traffic controller, and I want to say thank you.
Visit www.hiller.org/donate to make a gift today and help inspire the next generation of aviators.