Thursday, September 14, 2017

Meagan Harr: High goals and lofty dreams

Meagan Harr was simply trying to conquer a fear of heights when she decided to take flying lessons. But she fell in love with it and went on to complete her training in a Cessna 150.

For someone who was once terrified of heights and of flying, Meagan Harr faced and conquered her greatest fears in a surprising way. A lifelong Blountville resident, Meagan took a flying lesson in 2012 for the sole purpose of getting over her fear of flying.

Not only did she accomplish that, but she embarked on a new adventure that would change her life.

“I had no intention of pursuing flying,” Meagan explained. “But when I landed I said, ‘Oh my gosh, how long does it take to get a license?’ It was so neat to be able to say that I did it!”

Although she never dreamed that flying would be a part of her life, Meagan flies at least twice a week. She currently is a student pilot and will be getting her private pilot certificate later this month. She believes that flying is ‘in her blood’ since her cousin and great-grandfather were pilots during their lifetime, and her uncle is currently a pilot for Century Aviation. However, she has the proud honor of being the first female in the family to take flight.

“I didn’t even know that my now-deceased great-grandfather, Clayton Douglas, was a pilot until we found his pilot training book while going through his belongings after my great-grandmother passed away,” she said. Meagan proudly displays a picture of him in her office, along with his book.

Meagan’s training included several solo cross-country flights, the longest of which was at least 150 nautical miles and included three full stops to different airports. Also displayed in her office is the shirttail off of the shirt that she wore on her first solo flight. She explained, “After your first solo flight they cut the back of your shirt off. The reason they started that long ago was that they used to have the instructor sitting behind the pilot, and whenever the instructor needed to correct or advise the pilot, he would tug on his shirttail.” After a pilot’s solo flight, he/she no longer needs as much instruction.

“It’s like saying, you can’t tug on my shirt anymore because I know what I’m doing!” she added. Her training school, The Flying Service, is at Tri-City Aviation (TCA) where she is employed. Meagan is an administrative assistant at TCA, where she assists aircraft owners with acquiring hangar space, manages customer accounts, provides customer service to the visitors of TCA and facilitates activities. The company, located at Tri-Cities Airport, provides fuel, rental cars, catering and maintenance to pilots or passengers who may need it.

A graduate of Sullivan Central High School and ETSU, Meagan originally planned to be an elementary school teacher. She worked as a pharmacy technician for 13 years until she got a job at Tri-City Aviation in 2015, three years after her life-changing flying lesson.

“It’s crazy, but flying is a big part of who I am now,” she said.

Meagan was recently awarded a scholarship from the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots that was founded in 1929 and headed by President Amelia Earhart. Meagan plans to use the scholarship to further her pilot education and earn milestone ratings as a pilot. A local chapter of the Ninety-Nines, The Appalachian Aviatrixes, was recently formed in the Tri-Cities area.

Only six percent of pilots today are females, better known as aviatrixes. Because of her passion for flying and teaching others, Meagan is spearheading an upcoming fundraiser to raise public awareness and financial support for women who are interested in attending flight school. The special fundraising event will take place this week - Sept. 11-18 - at Tri-City Aviation. The week-long event will feature the Arizona Wing Commemorative Air Force and their B-17, Sentimental Journey, along with a P-51 Mustang fighter plane.

“People will have the opportunity to have their picture made in a 1940s-era photo shoot next to the planes,” explained Meagan. All proceeds from the fundraiser will go the Ninety-Nines Appalachian Aviatrixes chapter for their flight scholarship fund.

Meagan has come a long way since taking her first flying lesson. She is now an experienced pilot, the treasurer of the local Ninety-Nines chapter, the Public Affairs Officer for the Civil Air Patrol, and the Airport Support Network Ambassador for the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). Her passion for flying is evident, as is her love of teaching and wanting to help other women achieve their goals. Her dream is to become a certified flight instructor, combining her love of teaching and of flying.

“I want to help people learn to fly; to be able to teach them what I love. To share my love of aviation by contributing towards the earning of someone’s wings is the ultimate reward,” she said.

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