Fight or Flight



By: Olivia Allen

Many fairy tales start with “once upon a time” and are only a fable. However, my story started as a little girl with a dream. Not a lot of people expected a deaf little girl with a cochlear implant to achieve much, if anything at all. After all, I was born into a family of blue-collar workers who learned to adapt to life inside the dark, lonely, concrete walls of a factory. Nobody in my family has ever gone to college and completed it. Although it would be nice if someone did get a degree, it surely wasn’t expected of the deaf girl.

When I was born, the doctors told my parents that I had failed all of my hearing tests. My parents were terrified about what my future may hold. They brought me back to our home in the middle of nowhere Indiana, and it didn’t take long before I was the talk of our small town. Within a year of my birth, I received surgery to get my cochlear implant. At age 3, I went to a school to learn to speak, and the rest is history. It was around the ripe age of 11 when I realized what my life aspiration was — being a pilot. I don’t think my Uncle Mick ever thought that he’d be leading me down a rabbit hole when he informed my parents of an event occurring in Elkhart, Indiana.

You see, my uncle was an air traffic controller at Elkhart Municipal Airport, and the airport hosted Young Eagles flights every year. I can honestly say that I remember how much excitement rose from my gut at the exact moment that the pilot asked me if I wanted to sit in the right seat. My cousin Geneva and another boy sat in the back while I got to manipulate the controls of a little Cessna 172 Skyhawk. It was in that second that I made a decision; that decision was that airplanes were simply the coolest thing I had ever experienced. I will never forget how special my first flight was. Never did I think that one day I’d be sitting in the left seat of a Cirrus as the pilot in command.

Olivia Allen - 2023 PYOA contest 4th place story

In my senior year of high school, I searched around for colleges and found the perfect match for me and my needs. I fell in love with the campus at Vincennes University, the people I met on the tour, and the airplanes it offered. It was cozy, and the small class sizes reminded me of high school. I liked the one-on-one time I could get by being in a smaller program, so I applied and got in on my first attempt. I was so excited but ended up not getting to go because I didn’t get my medical back in time. I was heartbroken but decided to try again the next semester. Little did I know that my start date would be delayed by two years.

When spring 2020 came around, I learned that classes had filled up, and my high school did not send my final transcript. I waited yet another six months with a heavy heart. Once the fall of 2020 came along, I was again denied admittance to the school. I was devastated to find out that my medical had a restriction saying I was not valid to fly solo. Thus began the process of trying to get my medical cleared. I eventually got a medical flight test, which went well. After a couple months, I got the medical back, but there was a mistake. The examiner had cleared my vision but forgot to submit the information that cleared my hearing. Therefore, the fight to get a restriction-free medical continued. Thankfully, once he realized this, he was quick to submit the rest of the information needed to the FAA. However, I had to miss the spring 2021 semester. My spirits were crushed, but I continued working at Subaru to make money in hopes of getting in the following semester.

I was miserable watching people finishing up their college while I had to wait for the opportunity to touch an airplane. It seemed as if I was falling way behind my peers. I felt that compared to them, I was failing somehow. I told my parents, “If I don’t get in for the fall 2021 semester, I don’t think I can do it anymore.” I was heartbroken at the thought that I may never get to be a pilot. It wasn’t until April 15, 2021, that I received the call that just about made my knees buckle from underneath me. I had gotten accepted into the flight program, and it was finally time for me to leave my job to pursue my dreams. My mom was terrified when I called her in tears, as I am not the type to cry. I still have that voicemail from the chief flight instructor. I hold it dear to my heart, as I realized that day I hadn’t fought in vain. It was the start of a new life for me; my two-year fight was over.

Olivia Allen - 2023 PYOA contest 4th place story

As I look back on my life, I realize the strength it took to keep pursuing something that people thought was impossible. On August 16, 2022, which was exactly one year after I started classes, I became a private pilot. It was as if the stars had finally aligned for me the moment the designated pilot examiner signed my certificate. It signaled that my goals were not really bigger than what I could achieve. In January, I started my instrument flight training. I wish I could tell the little girl that despite her deafness, the left seat of an airliner is much closer than she thinks. One day I’m sure I’ll look back and think of how far I’ve come, but for now, I will keep working for the future ahead.

Olivia Allen - 2023 PYOA contest 4th place story

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Copyright © Flight Outfitters All Rights Reserved. 675 Cincinnati Batavia Pike | Cincinnati, Ohio 45245 | site maintained by WebTec