We were introduced to Lauren and William a couple who are both professional pilots, through another Torgoen adventurer: Jimm Barrett who we featured in a different post. Both Lauren and William have a life long passion for flying which they received from their families. We asked William and Lauren to tell us a little bit about what is it like to be a couple that flies together, their love for aviation and more.
Do you fly together often?
Any chance we get, both professionally and recreationally! We are fortunate in each of our current positions to be able to do so, and take every opportunity to not only fly together but also go on each other’s work trips as a way to travel together. We make a great team in and out of the cockpit, and our passengers tend to look at it as having two pilots must be better than one, a win-win for all. We also get to sit off each other’s wingtips when we’re in different aircraft and “chase” each other down in the sky if we hear one another on the same frequency, which is a blast and definitely makes some of our flights more exciting.
How did you get into aviation?
I grew up in an aviation family, both of my parents worked for Pan Am when I was growing up. My mother’s father was also an avid pilot. If there was a rating to be had, he got it, and tried to master it. My father’s father worked for the USAF as a safety advisor and crash investigator (something I later earned a college degree in). I grew up flying with my uncle in West by Gawd Virginia in his Super Cub, sitting on telephone books so I could see well enough to land. Working my way from grass strips and airplanes with no electrical systems to more advanced machines like the venerable C-152, and C-172 I was able to earn my license. I continued to fly in high school and into college while attending Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
Through hard work and persistence, I landed a dream job working for Stallion 51 during college and continued to work there for almost a decade. I went from cleaning hangar floors and answering phones to being a safety pilot, life support tech, and scape goat for the organization. I had an amazing time working with the USAF Heritage Flight Foundation and flew over 100 hours in the P-51 Mustang. Thanks in part to the experience I gained during that time, I was fortunate enough to become the chief test pilot of a developmental flight test program as my next job. Over those years, I was actively flying but mostly also building Reno F1 and unlimited race planes with some of the most amazing people in aviation. After the excitement of flight test and long days and nights prepping race planes I decided to return to a little bit less “exciting” flying. I have been the chief pilot for a couple wonderful corporations over the last few years and am still enjoying every minute of it.
My grandfather ignited the aviation passion in my family. He flew C-47’s in WWII including two missions on D-Day, went on to fly for Eastern Airlines, and even built his own airplane in retirement. Following in their father’s footsteps, my father and my uncle ended up flying for major airlines and have impressive resumes as well. I’m the first of my generation in the family to choose to fly myself, but my younger brother is thinking about taking the plunge soon too. When I was younger, I didn’t really grasp how unique it was to have grandparents with a hangar attached to their house and a taxiway in their backyard, but I certainly am grateful now to have had that exposure and immersion. I started taking my own flying lessons when I was in high school and accomplished my first solo before getting my driver’s license. I’ve been enjoying it as both a career and hobby ever since. Now I offer to take friends (or their kids) as my passengers whenever I can or anyone who expresses interest to expose them to aviation, since most people don’t grow up around it.
Tell us about your most memorable flight
Difficult to decide! I’d have to say though, that the most memorable flight was more like the multiple flights during the Air Race Classic in 2016. Myself and two other girls flew my little 4-seater airplane from Florida to Arizona to begin an all women air race that would take us over 2300nm to 13 airports in 4 days striving to secure a spot in the winner’s circle. This would be achieved by flying precise procedures without an autopilot and utilizing all the flight planning tricks we could come up with to take advantage of tailwinds, timing, thermals etc to compete against over 50 other aircraft. It was the most fun I’ve had to date combining flying with friendly - and at times, fierce - competition.
Even compared to experimental test flights, flying with Raptors, Eagles, Vipers and Hornets, my most memorable flight was working with Challenge Air. Challenge Air is an incredible organization that gives the opportunity to fulfill the dream of flying to differently abled or terminally ill children and their families. I have had the honor of flying at many Challenge Air events over the years, but on this particularly memorable flight, I was blessed to be able to fly a severely disabled young man and his family in Ft. Lauderdale. Shortly after takeoff his mother was crying (tears of joy) about how at peace he was. Seeing a child who couldn’t walk, talk or communicate with words, smile, relax and be at peace, most intimately reminded me of how powerful aviation can be. His older brother, mother and I had a peaceful, tear filled flight that I will never forget. Their ear to ear smiles and my damp cheeks will always highlight the best thing I could possibly do with my abilities, pay it forward and share my passion of aviation.
The most important thing to remember when operating an aircraft
It’s easy to get caught up in the romance of aviation, but its important to remember that the “ole girl” isn’t your friend. The airplane IS a piece of metal, it will kill you if you let it. No matter how relaxed of a flight it may be, approach it the same way, methodically. You really can have fun while exercising the privileges of your certificate. Remember, airspeed is life, and altitude is insurance, and when someone tells you to “never fly the ”A” model of anything”… you can… it’s just more exciting, believe me!
I believe it is important to treat operating an aircraft as if something could go wrong at any time (because it could) in order to avoid complacency. There’s an old rather morbid saying that goes with this serving as an important reminder for pilots of all experience levels. Whether they’re taking pictures in the cockpit smitten by the gift of aviation on the way to breakfast or flying professionally getting jaded by conversations about company negotiations; having the mindset of being ready to handle any problem big or small at any moment will help you keep calm and be prepared when something inevitably does inconvenience your flight.
Any Tips for aviation enthusiasts?
It’s never too late! Too many people I talk with always say, “I wish I would have…” “I should have...” etc. etc. Honestly, its never to late to chase down the dream of being an aviator. Nowadays it’s a lot easier to get started, with online courses and tons of great informative content online, one can stay up to date with the latest and greatest with ease. Study hard, don’t be discouraged EVER, and hold YOURSELF to the highest standard you can!
It is an incredible time to get into aviation, so I’d recommend going to your local airport and begin talking to flight schools about the options to start flying in your area. Most places at the very least offer discovery flights if you’re still gauging your own interest in learning to fly. Also, look into joining a flying club or membership chapter to immerse yourself and gain access to aircraft at affordable rates. Stick with it because just like anything, there may be tasks that you find difficult or check rides that stress you out, but power through those things and they will eventually become a distant memory. I like to remind enthusiasts that there is so much more to the industry than becoming a pilot if flying isn’t your thing, but you love aviation. Consider combining your skills and interests with positions such as customer service at FBO’s, sales & marketing for aircraft manufacturers, brokering aircraft or anything of the like.
In our next blog post we will continue our conversation with Lauren and William and talk about flying together and their wedding plans (aviation related of course!)
Any exciting projects coming up you'd like to tell us about?
Well for one; we are in the process of forming our own business! We will be offering aviation services such as test pilot, aircraft ferrying, and aircraft purchase consultation. We want our clients to purchase the RIGHT aircraft for them that fits their mission, and budget. This is a project we’ve been thinking about tackling for a while, and we look forward to having a business to call our own that will help keep us busy together.
This one is a bit of a nosy one: will wedding plans include aviation inspired activities?
Absolutely! We have even tossed around the idea of hopping in some airplanes and dog fighting each other and friends from the wedding party as a pre-wedding activity… We are still early in the planning process but will definitely include tasteful nods to aviation throughout the reception as well. Will is the creative one and has already come up with some great ideas for the guest book and decor from aircraft parts etc, so I cannot wait to see it all come together.
What is your dream craft/destination to experience together?
A dream for me would be in any kind of crew aircraft with Will and myself as the pilots, that way we could combine our loves of flying and traveling together to whatever destination the mission takes us! Other dream destinations of ours are all over the world; we have an extensive bucket list going and one of our summer plans includes driving the Nurburgring Nordschleife and GP track in Germany, which we are looking extremely forward to.
Well, speaking for me, I think it would be amazing if she (the brains) puts me to work test flying and researching for sales consulting and we build an amazing business together. Also, I think we would love to find the right business or owner who would want to hire an all-star crew/couple to fly them full time. If that were the case, I don’t think we’d care what the destinations are!