College Writing 1
"In Her Own Field"
It’s a Saturday morning. You wake up to the sound of an airplane flying over; it sounds like it’s flying low. You’re groggy because this is a lot earlier than you would normally wake up. However, you stumble out of bed and walk over to the windows. Upon looking out the window, you see it’s a little white plane. Although, today is a beautiful summer morning, the sun has risen, birds are starting to chirp, there’s still dew on the grass, and hardly any clouds. Someone who is up so early and working on the weekend must have determination and perseverance. That plane has been flying since sunrise, and the pilot —that’s Cassidy Ogg.
Cassidy is 21 years old and she’s been flying as an aerial applicator for two years. She grew up in a small town in Michigan with her dad, Justin, who is a farmer. She claimed that she’s been interested in this area of work since she was only a child. “I’d see this man who was a local ag pilot* at the county fairs and Ag expos and stuff, and I’d always go up to him and talk to him, ask him to tell me about his job. I’d see him year after year and he started recognizing me and we’d talk about how that was my dream.”Ever since she was young, she had the dream of becoming an ag pilot, but she didn’t achieve that without having some hoops to jump through.
*Short for agricultural pilot, commonly referred to as crop-dusters
“Well, I grew up and my parents convinced me I should do something more realistic. So, I was planning to go to business school and I was packing my things for college. I had left and he called my home phone because he heard and when my parents told him I was going to college he said, ‘No she’s not, she’s going to fly.’” She remembers this fondly. Cassidy went home that day and her dad was sitting in the kitchen with the pilot. “He told me he could see what it means to me and wasn’t going to let my dreams fly away." As she says this, you can see how thrilled she was. "So, I dropped out and he started giving me flight lessons.” She was pursuing her dream, but there was more to it than that, an aspect that most people forget about: money. “When I was doing my flight training, I was running really low on money. It’s expensive.” But, she was determined and this did not stop her. “I had to take some time off and work for a month or two then I’d fly some more and use up the money and work some more and so on.”
Cassidy has overcome challenges that may have caused others to quit, but she stuck with it. For example, in flight school, one of her first solo flights. “During my flight training I had an engine failure.” She had to land on a rural road. She continues to reflect: “I was so scared.” And that wasn’t her only airplane related failure. This past summer Cassidy had a magneto* fail and she had to make an emergency landing at the Dekalb airport. But that wasn’t her only problem. “There was a guy in the pattern who wouldn’t let me make an emergency landing.” She had to let that guy land and go around the loop again, putting herself into more danger. One thing she said is that it’s key to fly again soon after an incident. Otherwise, fear builds up. After the incident her plane got fixed and she flew it back to the hangar.
*A magneto is the airplane's power source; small airplanes usually have two
If she didn’t take this step, she might have been scared forever. She may have quit. Despite these incidents, she looks back at them with a fondness and a smile on her face. She says, “They helped better me. Yeah, they sucked but they made me a better pilot and prepared me for something else that might happen." Cassidy pushes past the problems, not only physically, but emotionally as well.
The aviation industry is very male dominated, and this division is no exception. This could make it tough as a minority in the field. There's only about a dozen or so women but generally everyone is kind. “We’re like a big family. There’s only a handful of women and we all know each other.” Some men don’t believe she’ll be as good as them but Cassidy doesn’t let that affect her. There was one instance in her first year working. Her face darkens as she continues. “He worked for Hendricksons too as a contractor and he was a real jerk; he was always putting me down and talking about how he could do more acres than me and probably better than me. He was so full of himself; he’d say things to get on my nerves. It was getting to me.” Cassidy presses her lips together. This incident motivated her to do even better, and his negative attitude led to him being let go.
Another set of challenges Cassidy faces is the long work hours during the spray season. She works from sunrise to sunset throughout the months of July and August. A typical day is waking up at 4:30, and from there it gets busy fast. “[I] get ready, I take a look at the weather forecast and then I go into the office to get my paperwork for the day, like maps, a usb file and the chemical information for my loader. I head outside to start pre-flighting my plane by 5:30. After that I go out and fire up. I get loaded up and I get some fuel and I’m ready for take-off.” Cassidy flies back and forth around 7 or 8 times taking between 45 and 50 minutes a load. “I usually fly until it’s about dark out, so I'll finish up for the day around 8:30. Once I'm done, I go inside to fill out some paperwork and take a look at what I have for tomorrow. Then I eat some dinner, take a shower and hit the hay.” Despite the long hours, Cassidy still loves her job. She smiles as she reflects, “I absolutely love flying. It makes me feel so free. I get such a rush when I’m spraying." This makes all of her hard work and determination worth it.
With all of these struggles, she must have something to keep her going. She confesses, “When it gets tough, I just have to remind myself of how far I’ve gotten and how lucky I am to have a great system of people behind me.” And although her work schedule had its challenges, she sees the positives too. “We spray for a couple months and then I get some time off. It’s like short sprints with a break in between rather than a whole marathon. It gives me time to reset, and I don’t get too worn out.” She looks forward to the time off. And during these breaks she is moving forward to pursue a degree in business in an online format to broaden her resume as well as having this as a back-up plan. Maybe she’ll even pursue a part-time job in business in the off-season. She is moving forward in her career as well. She is visibly excited when she tells us this news. “Later this fall I’m going to start my turbine engine training and hopefully spray cover crop in one of the thrushes.” All of her hard work and dedication has paid off at last. Cassidy will finally be flying in the big yellow plane she’s always dreamed of, but it will continue to present her with challenges. She tells us that she still has a lot to do and she’s just beginning in life. “I know everyone keeps telling me I need to be a role model, but I just feel so young. I’m not ready for that yet.” She leaves us with this piece of advice: "You can do whatever you put your mind to. Don’t let anything stop you. "