Breaking Barriers: Ava Shelly’s Historic Flight

January 21, 2024 is a date that will forever be etched in my memory as the day I dared to rewrite the rules of aviation. I’m Ava Shelly, and I’m here to share with you the amazing journey of how I, a 16-year-old girl with a dream and a passion for flight, accomplished something that had never been done before.

It all began at the crack of dawn at North County Airport, where I stood face to face with the Cirrus SR20, a sleek and powerful single-engine land airplane. I started flying this airplane just a few months before and needed ten hours in this type of aircraft before I was allowed to solo. With a mixture of excitement and nerves coursing through my veins, I climbed into the cockpit and prepared to take off into the golden sky. As the engine roared to life and the wheels left the ground, I felt a surreal calmness unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Flying three solo patterns in the Cirrus SR20 was a moment of pure exhilaration. This was a testament to the years of hard work, dedication, and unwavering determination that had brought me to this point.

I wasn’t content to stop there. The winter weather was beautiful as the sun painted the sky in shades of pink and gold. I made my way to New Hibiscus Airpark in Vero Beach, Florida, where I faced the next challenge of my journey, earning my private pilot license in a glider SGS 2-33. I started glider flight training soon after I turned thirteen and soloed on my 14th birthday, the first day I was legally permitted. I have been prepping for this day for a long time and I kind of knew what to expect. The hour-long oral exam with the DPE and the three check ride flights were daunting tasks, but I approached them with a calm and steady confidence, knowing that I had prepared myself for this moment. As I soared through the skies in the glider with the DPE in the backseat, harnessing the power of the wind and the thermals, I felt a sense of freedom and serenity wash over me. Passing the written & oral exams, the check rides and earning my private pilot license was a moment of triumph, not just for me, but for every young girl who has ever dared to dream of taking to the skies.

As the day wore on and before the sun began to dip below the horizon, I faced one final task, flying solo in a Robinson R44 helicopter. Flying helicopters wasn’t really on my radar until just a few months ago when I learned that I could legally fly a helicopter solo at sixteen. I found the closest helicopter flight school and started taking lessons. The R44 requires twenty hours of training before I could solo, and I hit that prerequisite the day before my birthday.  The afternoon sky was brilliantly blue and had not a cloud in sight, I took to the air once more, the roar of the rotor blades filling me with a sense of exhilaration and freedom. Maneuvering through the air with precision and skill, I felt a profound sense of pride knowing that I was making history with every turn. The helicopter solo required three full patterns to a complete stop, just like with the airplane. I made a right traffic pattern at about 500’ AGL and hovered to a full stop each time.

As I touched down on my final solo flight, exhausted but elated, I couldn’t help but reflect on the journey that had brought me to this moment. Flying solo in three different aircraft categories in a single day, all on my 16th birthday, was a feat that had never been accomplished before by a female pilot. This is an accomplishment that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Reflecting on the whirlwind of excitement and achievement that was my 16th birthday, I’m filled with gratitude for the incredible people and opportunities that aviation has brought into my life. From soaring through the sky in a glider to mastering the art of helicopter flight, I’ve proven to myself and to the world that age is just a number when it comes to following your dreams.

Here’s to breaking barriers, defying expectations, and daring to dream big! When you believe in yourself and your abilities, the sky truly is the limit.  I’ll be cheering you on while chasing my dreams and inspiring others to reach for the stars, one flight at a time.

Compare listings