Cover Photo by Sayaka Pereira

As a child, Sayaka Pereira would spend hours staring at the sky, observing the clouds and dreaming about flying. Once she was old enough to decide on a career path, she knew she wanted to study aviation. Her goal was to become a helicopter pilot.

Pereira moved to California and started her training. Initially, it was slow going as she struggled to pay for lessons. She didn’t let her slow start deter her: “No matter how long it takes, no matter what others may say, never give up your dream!”

Pereira is currently pursuing both her commercial and instrument ratings. To help her complete her training more efficiently, she applied for and won a 2019 Commercial Helicopter Pilot Rating Scholarship offered by Helicopter Foundation International (HFI).

Before getting her private rating, Pereira wasn’t aware of all the opportunities that existed in our industry for financial aid, as well as the robust network available to her through aviation clubs, nonprofit organizations, and online forums. “I didn’t know there were some really supportive aviation communities out there! Compared to other countries, the United States actually offers some of the best and most cost-efficient aviation training programs. However, it is still a very difficult process to become a pilot—­physically, financially, and emotionally.” Building a strong network of mentors was critical to her success.

Pereira’s career goal is to finish her instrument and commercial ratings and to begin working in the industry. She wants to work to create more pilots for the future by becoming a CFI and Part 135 qualifier. “I am also interested in being involved in nonprofit flying events, rescue, or environmental-related flights to give back to the community. In addition, I would like to pursue flying in film and TV or becoming an aviation advisor for those productions,” she says.

“I love being a pilot because flying is like living a life,” Pereira says. “We can research, study, and plan well. However, there are so many unpredictable elements, like weather conditions, other aircraft, or birds. A great pilot is able to stay calm in any situation, make the right decision in a timely manner, and take control.”

The HFI scholarship application season opened August 1. Each year, the foundation offers up to 20 scholarships for aspiring helicopter pilots and maintenance technicians. Visit rotor.org/scholarships to learn more.

Author

  • Allison McKay joined Helicopter Foundation International as vice president in 2015, where she focuses on programs that create a sustainable workforce, improve helicopter safety, and preserve industry history. Allison worked in marketing for aircraft OEMs before moving to charitable development.

Allison McKay

Allison McKay

Allison McKay joined Helicopter Foundation International as vice president in 2015, where she focuses on programs that create a sustainable workforce, improve helicopter safety, and preserve industry history. Allison worked in marketing for aircraft OEMs before moving to charitable development.