May/JunE 2015 Aviation for Women 21
nancy Snyder, WaI 39658
Ormond Beach, Florida
I am a recent graduate of Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University with a major in aeronautical science and
minor in applied meteorology. I am currently flight instructing on the Daytona
Beach Campus and enjoying every minute of it! My goal is to be an airline pilot and I am getting closer each day. I
am originally from West Palm Beach,
Florida, but lived in California for five
years. I decided to come back to Florida
for college because it was the location
of my dream school. I started air racing in 2014, and it was the experience of
a lifetime. I wanted to race last year to
challenge myself. I wanted to challenge
myself with new terrain and have a
new outlook on flying outside the training environment. It was great to see so
many women flying for one common
goal and that was to show other women
that ladies can fly too and that it can be
fun doing it! What better way to show
this goal than by air racing?
Every race is creating history and
making memories for a lifetime.
Valdeta (Val) mehanja, WaI 57103
Daytona Beach, Florida
I graduated from Embry-Riddle Aero- nautical University in 2013, and am now an ERAU flight instructor.
Prep for race
I come from Kosovo in southeast Eu-
rope. Because of the war there, my fam-
ily and I were refugees in Germany for
almost 10 years. After the war, we re-
turned to Kosovo to see all the destruc-
tion and damage the war had caused.
We didn’t really have a place to re-
turn to, so my siblings and I moved to
Iraq in 2004 to earn money and send it
home to our parents to build a house. I
worked on computers there, as that was
my specialty (IT officer). Then, I went
to Afghanistan and worked for the same
company, which was a government con-
tractor for the U.S. Department of State.
I fell in love with aviation there when
my boss told me that my job would be
to fix and install radio/satellite equip-
ment on helicopters. Ever since, I knew
I wanted to fly. After helping my fam-
ily out and being able to save enough
money, I was 26 when I went to ERAU
in 2010 to become a pilot. Almost five
years have passed, and I believe there is
nothing better than when your dreams
come true. I love aviation! This air race
has been one of the best things that ever
happened to me. Last year’s race was
my second time, and just like in 2013,
an exceptional experience.
From December 2013 to June 2014 the
calendar was full of planning and preparing for the big day. There is a lot to
do to prepare for an air race. Fundraising, uniform ordering, route planning,
route briefings, send-off celebrations,
and coming home celebrations. The list
is never-ending. During these months
it was important to build a solid foundation with my teammate to ensure
that we were always on the same page.
We got used to each other’s habits and
learned how to compromise. By the end
of our journey Val was like my sister.
Journey to the Start
The journey to the start was an exciting
and a lesson-learning one. We were tested with weather and mechanical issues
along the way. As we ventured toward
California from June 4-8, 2014, we got to
see the country from a bird’s-eye view.
The lush landscape of the plains to the
snowy tops of the Rocky Mountains to
the salt beds of the Great Salt Lake—it
was all beautiful!
We also got to practice our mountain
flying. It was my first experience mountain flying on the way out and it was
great when the air was smooth.
Our first night we stayed in Livings-
ton, Tennessee. We diverted for weather
and were lucky enough to get our air-
plane hangared. Thankfully we didn’t
get hit by the severe weather, and we p h O