Though she first thought about flying at age 4, it took a chance meeting with another female pilot 27 years later for Christy Wong to become one herself. It was October 2014 when the Lantana resident connected with Heather Dodd, who was selling some things on Facebook and invited Wong to her home to pick them up. When Wong learned Dodd worked as a pilot for Spirit Airlines, she literally just lit up.
“There were all the reasons why I didn’t become a pilot – I’m a female, I’m a mom, married with a family, and here was this girl who was my age, and she’s a captain at an airline with two boys and a husband and a house and everything else,” said Wong.
So for the next two years, Wong constantly picked Dodd’s brain about flying after which Dodd encouraged Wong to just
“I was very scared for multiple reasons,” Wong said. “Flying was very scary — not the flying itself but the landings. I was always worried [my husband] Steve would be upset. He was forced out of aviation [because of a corporate layoff], and I was worried about what he would think. If he wasn’t going to be supportive, it was a non-starter. So, I kept it inside for two years.
“Finally in October 2016, we were sitting in bed, and he asked what I wanted for Christmas. I told him ‘Actually I want to learn how to fly.’ He sat there for a minute, then said ‘Okay, let’s see how we can get that done.’ He said you go fly and I’ll stay home with the kids.”
The problem was that flight schools cost about $70,000. So Steve, a human resources technology consultant at the time, reinstated his flight instructor’s certification and taught her how to fly. They joined AeroValley Flying Club, then out of Northwest Regional Airport and later at Denton Enterprise Airport. He became a check-out instructor to teach her, allowing them to only have to pay for club dues, airplane time, and fuel.
She logged her first flight in February 2017, and five months later earned her private pilot certificate and flew as much as she could. They became involved in club leadership and played a key role in doubling membership and adding four planes, including a low-wing model they bought in June 2017.
Christy earned her commercial pilot’s license and started flying for pay, including doctors and small business jets before being hired by American Eagle as a first officer. This allowed her to leave her job as an allergy specialist.
She was sitting in training class when the world shut down last March. While she was able to finish that training, she wasn’t able to start the follow up initial operating experience (IOE for short) as classes were grounded. She was furloughed on Oct. 1. She was brought back to the payroll two months later but not immediately back in IOE class — which she will begin in late July.
Wanting to use her powers for good, she convinced her club to create a scholarship program and chose Guyer High School senior-to-be Zane Box of Lantana. They met through the Lantana Cares organization that she started in 2016 and found out that they both loved to fly. The club sponsored his membership dues. She and Steve also let him use their plane for free, and they convinced other instructors to train him. All he has paid for is fuel and insurance. It made her feel good about giving back.
While off from American Eagle, she did line up six students and enough contract corporate flying jobs on Lear jets and Citations to keep her busy. She also became an accidental YouTube celebrity after co-hosting YouTube shows called In the Hangar and Taking Off – something else she never would have become were it not for meeting Dodd.
“I am passionate about it because I remember all the reasons I didn’t fly when I was younger,” she said. “There were a hundred excuses on why not to do it. I wish I had met Heather just a little bit sooner. I would have done this sooner. It’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I’ve gotten a lot of really unique experiences with that.”
photos courtesy of Christina Wong