When Amy Fenster wants to get in the cockpit of a single-engine airplane and traverse the skies, she only has one barrier — finding someone to drive her to the airport.
The 17-year-old from Nicholasville completed a year-long learning process June 6 when she passed her check ride and received her pilot’s license; she had not obtained her driver’s permit yet.
Amy marveled at airplanes in the aviation museum as a child but didn’t get serious about learning how to fly until she rode in a Huey helicopter at an air show last year. She joined the Lexington Flying Club, got an instructor and began taking lessons.
“The first time was kind of funny — you can fly it either straight or level; you couldn’t turn and try to keep your altitude,” she said.
Learning how to fly was a see-saw for Amy between bewilderment and confidence as she mastered new tasks and saw how much more there was to learn.
“Whenever I’d learn something new the first time, it’d be like, ‘How does anybody ever do this?’” she said. “And then the next day, I’d go out there and it’d just be no problem, but then the instructor would throw something else at me and it’d be, ‘How does anybody do this?’ again.”
She took a solo flight for the first time in December and worked on fulfilling her other requirements for a license, mainly flying to Frankfort and Georgetown. She had to wait until her finals at Trinity Christian Academy were over before taking her check ride — one more lesson in patience for Amy.
“It’s really taught me not to give up, even when something seems to be taking a long time,” she said. “I had to wait to do some of the stuff until I turned 17 and then had to kind of wait for school to be over to be able to take my check ride. I was getting a little tired of only being able to do anything at three different airports — Lexington, Frankfort and Georgetown. But I’m glad I stuck with it; it’s really paid off.”
The people Amy has met communicating through her radio and landing at small Kentucky airports have been one of the biggest benefits, she said.
“It’s a whole other world; you don’t realize how many airports there are in all these little towns,” she said. “You meet the nicest people at them; it’s been a lot of fun.”
Amy’s mother, Tammy, said watching her daughter pilot a Cessna 172 was surreal.
“I called my mom and asked her one day, ‘Did I take the car when I was in 11th grade and go to another town and take your checkbook?’” Tammy said. “She said, ‘No, why?’ I said, ‘My daughter just flew off to another city with my credit card.’”
The next step as Amy pursues a flying career is getting an instrument rating to fly in bad weather; she also has aspirations of obtaining a commercial license and a rating as an airline transport pilot. Amy is undaunted by the profession dominated by men; her mother, Tammy, has the utmost confidence in her daughter’s abilities.
“Her check-ride examiner told me that her flying is phenomenal; that’s what his message was to me about her flying,” Tammy said.
Amy’s father, Brad, is also a student pilot and has contributed to her affinity for flying, but the dream she has fulfilled is all her own.
“He’s always kind of liked airplanes, but I’ve always liked them more,” she said.