Aviation English on the Fly – by Faith Viettes
Aviation English – In August 2007, I saw the writing on the wall. The impending doom of institutions of higher learning in California were hanging in the balance as budget cuts and internal restructuring would soon tip the scale into a deep chasm of uncertainty.
A Life-Altering Decision
It was then that I made a decision to leave the world I once knew and exchange it for an adventure into the unknown. Uncertainty for most can be unsettling; however, I had a firm belief that something better awaited me.
I spent what seemed an eternity trying to reinvent myself to no avail. Day upon day, I retired to inexhaustible frustration. Change in and of itself is easy. Implementing it, however, is where the challenge lies. A wind of good fortune did blow my way and soon a door opened. A local business owner in Santa Monica, Maurice Pinzon, engaged me in what would become one of the most memorable conversations of my lifetime.
What follows is a remarkable story about my friend, Faith, who, true to her name, exercised enough faith in herself to manifest a new and exciting career.
The Reinvention of Oneself
I spent what seemed an eternity trying to reinvent myself to no avail. Day upon day, I retired to inexhaustible frustration. Change in and of itself is easy; implementing it, however, is where the challenge is. A wind of good fortune did blow my way and soon a door opened. A local business owner in Santa Monica, Maurice Pinzon, engaged me in what would become one of the most memorable conversations of my lifetime.
Maurice loves aviation and his nephew. He asked, “Could you help my nephew, Felipe Zambrano learn English for an exam in Canada? He is a captain in the Colombian Air Force and wants to transition to a major commercial carrier.” I hadn’t a clue how to help him, but I said “sure!”
In The Learning Mode
Afterward, I spent nearly a year researching the topic, calling FAA, reading up on ICAO and anything else I could get my hands on to better understand how I could apply my academic background in language acquisition to that of aviation.
During this time, I fortuitously met a young woman from El Salvador, Adriana Castellanos, who was not yet a pilot but had the ambition and aspiration to become one. Like Felipe, the only thing holding her back was the need for English. I now had an overwhelming desire to help both of them achieve their goals and dreams, but how? The challenge was that Felipe was in Bogota, Colombia and an experienced pilot. Adriana on the other hand was in L.A. and yet a novice. However one thing was clear, they both needed to learn English to communicate successfully as pilots.
When the Student is Ready the Teacher Appears
In my search to understand the needs of international pilots another door opened. I contacted a former Italian student of mine who was now a commercial pilot to learn as much as I could from him. Isn’t life intriguing? The teacher teaches the student and in turn the student teaches the teacher. From Maurice Pinzon’s question to the Italian pilot Gian Fabio, the inception of establishing an aviation English institute was born.
There was another compelling question; “where would I find a place to open a school?” I didn’t want to be in an office building or on a campus. Gian Fabio said, “Alora Profesora, the only place a pilot will take serious is an airport.”
He in turn introduced me to another man, Ali Safai who is the President of Santa Monica Aviation. Mr. Safai’s facility caters to flight training, aircraft sales and service. More than this, he has a personal philosophy that was in sync with mine: a high standard of quality and personalized service. He offered the most elegant and tastefully decorated rooms with a view through the hangar to the airport. I thought to myself, “this is where I want to be, there is nothing like it!”
My Room With a View
I now have a room with a view. Students are inspired as they can see where they are going. I fly with them to understand where communication breaks down. It’s a hands-on approach. I work with them in a hybrid and online format to meet schedule constraints. It’s great and I am grateful. I often think to myself, “If it wasn’t for that eventful conversation with Maurice, the direction of Gian Fabio, and the willingness of Ali to take me under his wing, I wouldn’t be here.”
The airport is a dynamic place to be, not one day has ever been the same. There’s no going back – only forward. I’ve traded uncertainty for certainty. I’m on the runway to success by doing what I love; the vision is clear, I’m ready for take-off!
Patty Mooney is a VP and Video Producer at award-winning San Diego video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions
Faith Vietti is known as the Flying Professor.