There are a variety of groups in aviation, each with a unique purpose. Most groups work to advance the aviation community, make it easier & more cost effective to fly and aim to inspire new pilots. Some groups do a better job than others when it comes getting people flying; one of the more successful groups is the Ninety-Nines.
The Ninety-Nines derived their name from their beginnings. In 1929, a group of 99 women pilots organized themselves into The Ninety-Nines, Inc., International Organization of Women Pilots. The organization has a rich history and they advocate increasing the number of women that hold pilot certificates. Historically, many more men than women have held pilot certificates, but the 99’s are working to change that and increase the number of women pilots. In an age where news stories mention a “pilot shortage,” the work of the 99’s to increase the number of women in aviation is yeomen’s work.
The mission statement for the 99’s is as follows: “The Ninety-Nines is the international organization of women pilots that promotes advancement of aviation through education, scholarships and mutual support while honoring our unique history and sharing our passion for flight.” The work that the 99’s do is vital to the growth of aviation and it is inspiring to see their efforts come to fruition. Recently the Eastern New England Chapter put on a flying Poker Run across New England. The event brought 25 aircraft from all over New England to the New Bedford Regional Airport (event finish line). The fundraiser was very successful on two fronts, both with raising money and getting pilots flying!
I have been lucky enough to meet and get to know a very important person within the 99’s organization. Ms. Christi Ellis, the Eastern New England Chapter Chair. Christi’s region includes Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
Christi is a very impressive aviator. Presently she serves as a check instructor for the Bridgewater State University flight training program. Spending five or six days a week at the airport, Christi has become known as the “Queen of Effect.” She employs numerous illustrations and parallels to help her students grasp the variety of concepts introduced during all levels of flight training.
I can honestly say that while Christi was explaining some of her unique training techniques, I was extremely impressed! (This doesn’t happen very often…) Students that have the chance to fly with Christi will benefit greatly from her unique communication skills. These students are definitely in for some ‘Aha’ moments. Not that we don’t have too much jargon already but her on-the-fly creation of the “AHA” radio call is a perfect example of her creativity. One of her instrument students was struggling with their radio calls when being cleared for instrument approaches. Christi (on-the-fly, pun fully intended) told the student, “Simply reply with Approach, Heading and Altitude. Follow the AHA technique.” Truly an ‘Aha’ moment, this really shows her creativity and how she is able to effectively connect with her students to help them succeed…
Haling originally from Texas, she came to Massachusetts and the New Bedford Regional Airport (hey, I have to plug my airport, any chance I get…) in March 2013. A graduate with a degree in English from the University of Texas, she has traveled the globe and is a highly experienced teacher… The former high school English teacher puts her Masters degree in education to good use as a flight instructor! Christi credits her ability to be an effective flight instructor to her experience as a teacher.
After a rather unpleasant interaction with the parent of one of her English students, Christi decided that a long career of teaching high school was not how she wanted to spend her life. She had always liked airplanes, having been to a couple of air shows as young child. The prospect of being a professional pilot was enough to get her looking for programs online. Christi then sent an inquiry email and two weeks later she was enrolled as a student pilot at Spartan College in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ms. Ellis worked nights teaching while pursuing her flight certificates at Spartan. Once she earned her certificates, she came straight to New Bedford to join the flight instructor ranks at Bridgewater State University. Leaving a full time teaching position to go back to school to pursue her dream of flying wasn’t an easy choice but it is one that shows her passion for aviation.
To learn a little more about Christi and her flight instructing abilities, I spoke with Billy Smith, who is a ReviewBeforeFlight contributor. Billy is one of the few Bridgewater students that are lucky enough to train with Christi as their primary instructor. I was hoping to hear from Billy some instances where Christi went above and beyond what one would expect from a typical flight instructor, and I was not disappointed…
On one morning, early on in Billy’s commercial pilot training, Christi added an unscheduled stop to their lesson. They landed at the Plymouth airport, and to Billy’s surprise, upon landing she revealed that she wanted to bring him to Plymouth because there was a beautifully restored B-17 on the ramp. This wasn’t something that she had to do, but understanding how “neat” it would be for any pilot to see the B-17, she made a point to bring Billy to see it. This is the type of thing that I believe good instructors do for their students… An airplane as unique as a B-17 is enough to fan the flames of aviation passion within any pilot!
The main reason why Billy recommends Christi as an instructor over any other is the fact that she makes training enjoyable. Between being organized and detail oriented, Christi maintains a professional and enjoyable atmosphere for learning. Billy also noted, that at some point during each training activity her students will definitely find themselves laughing from her unique training techniques. These laughs will only reinforce the instructional knowledge she has passed on.
Since beginning his training at Bridgewater, Billy has flown with roughly seven instructors during his private, instrument and commercial training. Of those he was quick to point out that Christi was by far his favorite. Further, Billy noted, “If you were to have her as a private pilot instructor, you’d be lucky… Christi would ensure that the new pilot is competently trained to the highest level. She is a wealth of information and really cares about not only her students, but also everyone at the Bridgewater Aviation Training Center. Often times she spends time talking to everyone in the briefing room, with a genuine interest in what they are saying…”
One of the main takeaways from my getting to know this all-around awesome individual is that she actually cares. When I asked Christi what advice she gives to students just getting started with learning to fly, she said, “You have to have the ability to be persistent and stick with it.” This is very true… Flying isn’t easy; it takes skill, dedication and some smarts. Some parts of learning to fly are difficult, but getting through these tough portions makes you a better all around person.
I found it interesting that Christi mentioned she thought she was able to excel with learning to fly because she knew how to study effectively (as a result of her advanced education). Learning to fly is a journey; students that study and are able to make it through the difficult portions are rewarded with the light at the other end of the tunnel in the form of a pilot certificate!
With a solid work ethic, Christi is a great role model for aspiring pilots of all skill levels. The effort she applies to the craft of teaching flight is something that anyone in aviation could aspire to. What it truly impressive about Christi is her ability to make things happen. She changed careers from professional teacher to aviation, showing that the opportunity to get into aviation is always there! In the future Christi plans to pursue a career in corporate aviation, an avenue where I’m confident she will be successful.
-Fly Safe, @MTElia1B9