formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

September 2, 2008 Leona Aranda, an inspiration

The Liberty Gazette
September 2, 2008
(this article reprinted in the December 2008
newsletter of the Oklahoma 99s)

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Linda
: When Leona was a child she dreamed of flying. Sounds emanating from piston and jet engines flying overhead commanded her attention with a whisper to her soul. Drawn to the awe of flight, the small girl looked longingly to the skies with every passing aircraft. Her desire to soar above the earth was delayed by life events, but Leona never let go of her dream. Removal to foster care while in her teens proved a good thing for Leona. It was a chance to break from her family history and forge a new path, one of education and career. Not only the first in her family to graduate high school, but to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree, Leona has at times juggled two jobs, school, and family. She and her husband, Daniel, are parents to four children, ages 5-15.

It was through church that Leona met Rick Sandoval and Tim Hartman, both deacons, both pilots, Rick an instructor as well. “When I found out he was a pilot I started asking a lot of questions,” Leona recounted to me, “and the conversation finally came around to teaching people to fly. I asked him if anyone can learn to fly, and he said, ‘Yes, of course.’ I couldn’t believe it. I asked, ‘You mean you can even teach me?’ He said, ‘Yes, even you.’” At that moment Leona’s heart raced with excitement. Her lifelong dream suddenly felt like a possibility. “I never knew I could actually fly!” Leona’s upbringing just didn’t allow for that kind of dreaming; it was the kind of self-defeating mind set that taught her to think ‘those kinds of things are for other people.’ But now here was Rick Sandoval, telling her he could help her realize her dream.

Mike: Now an inspiration to her family, Leona has recently soloed an airplane and has flown her first cross-country solo flight, a flight of more than 50 nautical miles from one airport to another. But her inspiration doesn’t stop there. Last March the tragic loss of her beloved flight instructor, Rick, and his good friend, Tim, was a shock to Leona. She had overcome so many setbacks and hardships before, but this one would be tough. Many family members were questioning whether she should continue flight training. When we asked her how she dealt with that, she said, “I told them it’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” but the look on her face said it without the words. With the assistance and encouragement of other pilots from the Ninety-Nines, the Oklahoma Pilots Association, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Leona pulled herself back up by the bootstraps and climbed back in the cockpit, to soar again. While we were in Oklahoma City for the Okie Derby we were honored to witness recognition of Leona’s courage, resilience, and resolve, and to join in encouraging her to keep reaching for her dreams. The Ninety-Nines, the world’s oldest and largest women pilot organization, has local chapters throughout the world. The Oklahoma chapter sponsors the Okie Derby, the world’s largest proficiency air race, created to generate scholarship funds, and has given away $40,000 since 1990. This year they wisely chose Leona as recipient of the $5,000 flight training scholarship.

Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.

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