Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Jacquie Warda: Pilot continues fulfilling her dream

Jacquie Warda is living proof that it is never too late to chase your dreams. She lives out her passion for flying year-round as an aerobatic performer and was one of the featured pilots at the 2014 Selfridge Air Show last weekend. 

Warda took to the skies at age 32, but always had a desire to be a pilot.

"I had wanted to fly since the age of 3," she said. "When you dream of something long enough, failure is just not an option."

She readily admits that "flying is not cheap," and she saved her money until she was ready to enroll in ground school. Along with having to bide her time before getting into get into the cockpit, she found that women were not easily accepted into the world of flying.

"I didn't know any women who flew," said Warda. "As a girl I wasn't encouraged much. I had a lot to overcome because no one was encouraging me."

Knowing her task may be harder did not discourage her.

"I got tired of hearing myself say 'I wish I could fly an airplane,'" she said. "I just had to go do it; I had to try."

She earned her private pilot certificate in 1986, but did not take her first formal aerobatic lesson until 1997. Flying came as natural to her as anything she had ever done.

"I loved it," she said with a grin about how she felt after her first flight. "I couldn't get enough; it was like walking to me."

Warda said learning the tricks of the trade in the sky was the same as anyone else learning a new skill.

"I learned one thing, I could handle it and I wanted to do the next thing," she said. "You have to take baby steps and learn one thing at a time."

She will fly in 12 shows in 2014, including performing with pilots Patty Wagstaff, Melissa Pemberton and Julie Clark, as well as the Misty Blues all-female skydiving team at Selfridge.

Warda, who now lives in San Francisco, said a good season will take her to 20 air shows from March through October.

"This is the first time we have all flown together like this," she said. "Nobody has ever done an all-women air show."

She flies her Extra 300 monoplane to each show herself. Warda said it took her six "hops" to get to Springfield, Ill., and two more to get to Michigan for the weekend show.

She has logged over 2,500 hours in the air and flown in over 100 air shows since getting bitten by the aerobatics bug, and she is not slowing down anytime soon.

As for describing what a first-time flight in her monoplane is like, Warda is very straight forward.

"Your body goes through feelings you have never had before," she explained. "It is all foreign to your body; it doesn't matter what your brain is trying to do."

That is a very accurate description of a first flight with Warda, but it will make you want to climb back in with her and ask for more.

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