Student spotlight: International Women’s Month

At LIFT, we’re focused on diversifying the aviation industry, and International Women’s Month gives us an extra opportunity to highlight some of our awesome female flight students! We sat down with Courtney Grieg (C) working on a private pilot certificate, Amber Murphy (A) is working on a commercial rating and Sarah Hayward (S) is in classes to get a CFI at LIFT Academy. They each took different paths to get to where they are today, but they share at least one thing—they love flying with LIFT!

Courtney Grieg, working on Private License


Q: Have you always been interested in planes/aviation?

C: Yes, I have.

A: I’ve always been interested in planes and aviation but only recently thought about flying them.

S: I was terrified to fly when I was younger, so it wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I started to consider it. I think the idea of conquering that fear pushed me to take a discovery flight. Call me cliche, but it was so much more exciting and fulfilling to do something that scared me.


Q: What is your first memory of wanting to be a pilot?

C: My only real first memory of wanting to be a pilot would be when I visited the flight academy at the college I was going to at the time and just fell in love with the idea of flying and airplanes.

A: As a Flight Attendant, I had the opportunity to sit in the flight deck when one of my pilots stepped out to use the bathroom, and I quickly knew I’d enjoy spending my career on the front side of the flight deck door.

S: After really enjoying my first flight, I wanted more. I was looking to make a career out of something I loved, and I could see that being flying.


Q: What were you doing prior to flying with LIFT?

C: Prior to attending LIFT, I had just graduated college from Indiana State University and decided to join the Army National Guard. I was gone for four months, and when I got back home, I really decided to just soul search and figure out what I really wanted to do as a career, and that is when I heard about LIFT Academy!

A: I was a Flight Attendant before starting at LIFT.

S: I was at Auburn University for an undergraduate degree in Zoology. War eagle!


Q: Why did you choose to pursue aviation?

C: I chose to pursue aviation because of my constant want to understand how airplanes work. I never really enjoyed a lot of subjects in school, and when I took an aviation class, it finally seemed to stick, and I finally enjoyed what I was learning.

A: I love the lifestyle. Different cities, different flight crews–it never gets boring because it’s something different every day.

S: Until about halfway through college, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian; that was only because I hadn’t found anything I truly had a passion for. I started searching for a new career path, and my dad suggested I follow in his footsteps as a pilot. It turns out flying ignited that passion, and I knew that I wanted to pursue aviation as a career. It’s also been an added bonus to share my successes and experiences with my dad.

Amber Murphy, working on Commercial License


Q: What about attending flight school at LIFT works best for you?

C: What works best for me is that I can still have a job and get other stuff done that I need to along with flying, ground school and the simulators.

A: The flexibility and availability of instructors, airplanes and simulators.

S: I came into this program knowing it would be accelerated, and that’s what I wanted. LIFT’s timeline for each stage of training is more aggressive than most schools, which is perfect for a girl like me that wants to get it done.


Q: What barriers have you found when trying to get into a male- dominated industry like aviation?

C: I have been fortunate enough to not have had to experience any barriers while in the aviation field, but I have heard other females in the industry express their frustrations with people constantly thinking that they are flight attendants and that they should “just leave flying to a man.” Or some just don’t take females seriously while they are training and expect them to fail.

A: I haven’t really encountered any barriers, but there are stereotypes that are frustrating. When I tell most people that I’m in flight school, they assume I’m in school to be a flight attendant because I’m a girl.

S: It’s so great that women are being heavily recruited and encouraged to get into this industry, but I also feel that no matter what gender, your accomplishments should be performance based. It’s frustrating to wonder whether my accomplishments are based off of my skill or because I’m a female. I don’t care what gender anyone I fly with is as long as I know they’ll keep me safe. I’d like people to know me as a great pilot, not as a great female pilot.


Q: What has helped you get through those barriers?

C: What has really helped me get through these kinds of barriers is to just work harder and prove them all wrong. Women are more than capable of flying planes. Just not giving people, in general, a reason to think any less of you because you are a female.

A: I enjoy peoples’ reactions when I tell them I’m actually in school to be a professional pilot. It motivates me to keep working hard to reach my goal.

S: You have to work hard, throw out your pride and be your own biggest critic. It’s amazing that women have so much support in the aviation community, but sometimes people trying to give you a leg up (because you’re female) doesn’t really help at all. There have been times that I have had to tell my superiors that something I demonstrated was unsatisfactory when they didn’t want to fail me on it. Honestly, as much as nobody likes to fail, I need those failures to grow from and to make me a better pilot. I had to learn to be honest with myself and not accept anything less than my best performance no matter what the person beside me says.


Q: What is your favorite part of LIFT?

C: My favorite part is that the planes we learn to fly (Diamond Aircraft) are so new that it makes learning very easy. The simulators have the cockpits that are a 1:1 ratio of the airplanes we fly which makes flying the simulators much more helpful.

A: It’s very flexible. You can study when you would like and the instructors are available if help is needed.

S: I love looking at the big picture. I think sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in our individual training and forget about what’s happening around us. I started training in April of last year when LIFT was just over six months old. It’s now less than a year later, and we’ve quadrupled our number of students and doubled our fleet. It’s pretty cool to be a part of something so new and watch it grow.

Sarah Hayward, working on getting CFI


Q: What is your favorite part of flying?

C: My favorite part of flying is once you take off, your problems and worries stay on the ground just for a little while, and you just get to fly the airplane and focus on what is right in front of you. And the beautiful views of sunrises and sunsets of course!

A: I love the freedom and the views never get old!

S: The perspective. Even on an off-day, it’s hard to complain when you’re flying. I also love how fulfilling it has been for me. Crushing a checkride, completing your first solo or nailing your first approach in actual IFR conditions makes you feel like the master of the skies.


Q: What are you most proud of accomplishing in your training so far?

C: Every lesson is an accomplishment, and I think when we are training, it tends to get overlooked. I am most proud of just taking a chance and coming back into the aviation field after a few years to really do what I love to do!

A: I recently passed my instrument check ride!

S: There’s no one moment that I’m most proud of; I think the real accomplishment lies in the time it took to get to where I am. I started at LIFT less than a year ago with almost zero knowledge of anything aeronautic… here I am an instrument rated commercial pilot less than a year later, about to take my CFI checkride. I’m proud of that!


Q: What do you see in your future as a pilot?

C: I see myself finally embracing and understanding that saying “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

A: Flying for the airlines, and I’d also love to own an airplane one day.

S: The great thing about being a pilot is there are so many different paths you can take. I’m not closing myself off to any of them. I’m really looking forward to flying for Republic. I also like the idea of working for a worldwide cargo carrier. I’ve even been considering becoming a designated pilot examiner (DPE) one day… I have no idea what my future looks like, but it’ll be in the sky.


Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self about flight school?

C:  One piece of advice would be to not be so scared of failure and to ask tons of questions.

A: Don’t wait so long to give it a shot. The sooner you start the better!

S: Delays happen – you can’t control the weather, you can’t control your checkride wait time, and recently I’ve learned that you can’t control a worldwide pandemic. You just have to roll with it. Open a book and be diligent about learning everything you can while you’re stuck on the ground. You can never know too much.