September 25, 2013 - After a Young Eagles flight in June 2012 with pilot James Patton in his RV-6A, then-17-year-old Ashley Collins of Silverton, Oregon, was determined to become a pilot and almost immediately started flight training.
When she learned about the $6,000 Karen Johnson scholarship sponsored by the Ninety-Nines this past year, Collins applied and was named recipient during the WomenVenture Power Lunch at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013.
Collins, now 19, wasted little time getting after it, aggressively pursuing her training and passing her checkride on September 13 to earn her private pilot certificate at Independence State Airport (7S5) in Oregon.
To call her a deserving recipient of the scholarship would be putting it mildly. In her essay she wrote how about she overcame many hardships but never lost her determination and will to be a pilot.
After graduating high school in May, Collins worked as a caregiver at Mount Angel Towers health center in Oregon to pay for flight lessons. Instructor Wayne Nutsch noticed her determination right away. "I made [her] first flight a little longer in duration because she was so intent on what she was seeing and doing," Nutsch said.
He also spoke highly of Collins' dedication to the community and helping others. "Ashley is a kind person. She has volunteered with the American Red Cross ... and just today she volunteered at a 4K run for an Alzheimer's fundraiser."
Collins' dedication to helping others, even during some very dark days, played a big role in EAA choosing to help her out in her pursuit of flight by awarding the scholarship. It's funded by the Ventura County Ninety-Nines chapter in memory of their fallen chairwoman Karen Johnson, who was killed in a plane crash in January 2013 while making a frost control flight. Karen touched many lives and inspired many of her colleagues to pursue advanced flight training.
After passing her checkride, Collins wrote a letter to all of the parties who helped make her dream come true:
To the Ventura County 99s, along with EAA, Barry Schiff, the Van Nuys Propeller Association, the anonymous donor, and of course our dearest Karen, my sister in aviation: Without a single one of you I would not be where I am and who I am. All of you and Karen have forever become a part of my life dance and I promise you I will use this gift you have given me to become a part of someone else's.
Collins is already taking steps to further her knowledge as a pilot, Nutsch said. "When we go up for a flying lesson, she listens and will do what you ask her to do. If something isn't quite right, she fixes it."
Nutsch hopes to continue to mentor Collins as she continues her career in flight. She starts airframe and powerplant mechanic classes next week at Lane Aviation Academy looking to become a certificated A&P so she can "break them and fix them." As she stated in her application essay for the scholarship, Collins' dream is to be a pilot who knows everything possible about all aspects of aviation, including mechanics.
Collins was also part of a Sonex build at EAA Chapter 292 at Independence Airport, and is an active member of the Ninety-Nines and the Oregon Pilots Association.
"When I finish obtaining my license and my A&P, I want to share my passion and love of aviation with others and help them achieve their dreams to fly," Collins said. And she'll get her chance to do so starting this week.
"I'm going to be giving a young girl a young eagles flight on Friday if the weather holds up! This is so exciting!"
Learn more about EAA scholarship opportunities.