48 Aviation forWomen;May/June 2015
the airport as much as I could. I must
have eventually worn down her will,
because both she and her husband accepted me as part of the daily airport operations. Her husband, Mike, joked that
a dog and an airport rat came with the
FBO. The dog and I were quite pleased.
Jake helped me study for my private
pilot training and taught me everything
about the FBO business. I learned how
to fuel all sorts of different airplanes,
change runway lights, detail airplanes,
change the windsock, issue NOTAMs,
and talk on the UNICOM radio (which
was secretly one of my favorite jobs).
Mike taught me how to run
the tractor and mow the
runways, run the snow-blower, and operate the
backhoe. I doubt that either of them realized how
much of an impact they
were making. After all, I
was just a kid who followed
them around the airport
and hung out with the airport dogs.
Their time and effort was
an investment in my future.
Much to my excitement, they paid for me to attend my first
WAI conference. Jake and I had such a great time. It became
one of our yearly goals to attend. We both went for several
years until my college and work made the trip more difficult.
I met many wonderful people and even received a few scholarships that helped immensely with my flight training costs.
Mike and Jake had three airplanes and they gave me keys
to each of them. It was pretty awesome being 17 years old and
taking a plane and a dog on a 60-mile flight just for lunch. Our
airport dog, Dawg, loved to fly. Jake says I never really soloed,
because Dawg was always with me.
I gained so much more than knowledge
from them, and they truly became family. I credit them for such an awesome
part of my young life—every kid should
have his or her own airport. In time I
got my CFI, CFII, and MEI and decided to open my own flight school, and I
knew just where to put it. I was through
with college and waiting to get hired as
an air traffic controller with the FAA. I
once again spent my days hanging out at
the Aitkin airport. Jake and I still got to
hang out together quite a bit, as she was
one of my first flight students.
Eventually I was hired as a controller and was assigned to
Minneapolis Air Route
Traffic Control Center in
Minnesota. I’ve loved being a controller, and have
been fortunate enough to
receive the FAA Administrator’s Safety Award. I’m
also an FAA Safety Team
rep with the Minneapolis
FSDO and have given pilot
safety seminars to 993 pilots over the course of five
years. The most popular
seminar is the ATC Services/Operation Raincheck seminar, of
which I have been lucky enough to present at two WAI conferences (with Jake in the front row, of course). I credit much of
my current success to her and Mike’s kind influence that began almost 20 years ago.
My advice for mentoring is simple: Find someone who geeks
out at the same stuff you do and develop that bond. Also, having an airport dog never hurts. ✈
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Heather McNevin, WAI 6411, is an air traffic controller, CFII,
and MEI. She is also an active FAA Safety Team rep.
my aviation journey begins in 1996, at the age of 14. Short- ly after I started flight lessons with a young-at-heart World
War II veteran, a nice couple purchased the local FBO. The lady who
worked there every day was named Carolyn, but everyone called her Jake (her maiden name
was Jacobsen). She was very nice and she had a dog, so of course I followed her around
IN our owN