Day 163 - Natalie

Day 163 - Natalie (3rd person I approached)
June 12, 2014 - Natalie was born and raised in Richmond, British Columbia (BC). She is an only child.

“I always wanted to have siblings. I was envious of my friends that did. My parents separated when I was very young, and I didn’t have anyone that I could talk with about that. There wasn’t a brother or sister to go through what I went through along with me. I think it would have been easier. When you see your parents having a difficult time, you don’t want to talk about it with just anyone. So I didn’t talk about it with anyone,” she said. Natalie had grown up with her mother and tells me that they get along reasonably well.

“There’s definitely something to be said for changes that can take place when a mother goes through menopause," she said chuckling.

"Plus, she's been with the man she’s with now for about 20 years; that’s the main focus of her life. We get along, but were closer when I was growing up.”

 

Natalie enjoyed school and was a good student.

“I liked learning and I enjoyed seeing my friends. I think Grade 12 was definitely my favourite year of school over all. I went to Kwantlen College in Richmond right after I graduated from high school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was 17. Who knows what they want to do at that age? So I went to college with the intention of going to university after that,” said Natalie. A friend of her's invited Natalie to go to her brother’s graduation from flight school.

“I had been in Air Cadets when I was a kid. I was always interested in being a pilot. With the air cadets we would go flying every month. You could go through training with them to get your pilot's license, but it meant going to air cadet camp for the summer and I wasn't into that. Air cadet camp was not all about fun and adventure, it was learning and study and just did not appeal to me,” she said. Natalie did some research after attending the flight school graduation. Then she enrolled in flight school herself.

“I was going to college, working and going to flight school all at the same time. I gave it my best shot to do it all, but it was too much and so I left college. Besides, I couldn’t afford to pay for college and flight school. It was a private flight school with no government funding available, and very expensive. I had to pay for it myself. I did a week-long flight instrumentation reading section of the course. That was almost $5000 for the week, just for that one component,” said Natalie.

 

While in flight school, Natalie was able to take out small planes, building up her minimum flight hours required to get her pilot's license.

“It’s quite ironic. If you get your learner's permit for driving a car, you have to have a qualified driver in the car with you until you get your license. When learning to fly at that time. once you had your minimum 60 hours of flight time, you could take a plane out by yourself. You needed something like 350 kilometres (approx. 220 miles) ‘cross country’ distance as well. I took a plane and a group of my friends and flew us to California for a week! I was 19 years old. It’s kind of crazy to think about that,” she said, laughing. During her time in flight school, Natalie’s father became ill and she put everything on hold to spend time with him.

“After my father passed, I went back to school and completed the program. It was a bit longer because of the time I took off, so in about 3.5 years I got my pilot’s license,” said Natalie. 

 

Her first job was for a small cargo flight company.

"I would fly parcels and freight usually around British Columbia. Though, I seem to remember flying medical supplies down to Seattle. They were supplies for cancer research,” she said. We talked about all new pilots getting the worst trips and the cargo that was potentially hazardous.

“It may have been radioactive,” she said, joking. 

 

Natalie worked for a couple of small carriers that had contracts with nationwide parcel delivery companies.

“The first company went out of business. It’s a competitive market. And then the second company I worked for I left and they went under shortly after as well, “ she said. Natalie is now working for a company that she has been with for some time.

"I’m now flying Boeing 727 aircraft, delivering parcels and cargo for Canada Post and another courier company. While I still only fly within Canada I'm sometimes gone for a couple of weeks at time," she told me. In order to understand the size of the planes she flies,  I asked Natalie how many passengers a 727 would carry as a passenger plane?

“About 200 passenger. But’s it all cargo for me, so I don’t have to think about that kind of responsibility. When flying, I don’t really think about the length of the plane behind me. Whether it's a small plane or a 727, the flying is relatively similar. My job is to focus on what’s ahead of me,” she said.

 

Natalie has been in a relationship for the past seven months.

“He’s a pilot as well and flies internationally, so he understand that our schedules are varied and change often. It’s actually worked out really well in terms of the time we do spend together. We both just got home from flying and we have the next two weeks off together. It’s not very often that couples get that kind of time off together without it being a planned vacation,” said Natalie. We chatted for a while about the time that they did spend together at home. The potential for more ‘quality time’ between them. With their schedules, they don't see each other daily and fall into routines, as can happen in many relationships.

“When people find out that I’m a pilot, they often say ‘oh wow, that's so cool, lucky you!’  For me, I usually respond with ‘Oh you get to sleep in your own bed every night and work nine to five, five days a week! That's so awesome!’ I’m sometimes jealous of people who do have that routine. But of course, I love what I do."

 

I thanked Natalie for her time, for chatting with me and sharing her story. She gave me a lovely big smile and shook my hand.

“Good luck with your project! It’s been really nice talking with you.” I said I admired how dedicated she was to pursuing her dreams, and it's amazing that she’s a pilot, flying those big planes.

“Thank you," she said.

"My life is pretty ordinary really, and it's all I know. It’s ordinary and not so special. Everyone I know is a pilot.” #notastranger