AAE PhD student receives two scholarships
A pair of scholarships allowed AAE Ph.D. student Nicoletta Fala to complete aerobatic flight training and work toward earning a flight instructor rating.
Fala (BSAAE ’14, MSAAE ’14) received the Lovelace/Drake Scholarship from the International Council of Airshows, which specifically was for aerobatic flight training, and also was awarded $1,000 from Female Aviators Sticking Together (F.A.S.T.).
Fala completed five hours of aerobatic flight training with instructor Billy Werth just before the start of the semester. It not only allowed her to learn how to fly barrel rolls, slow rolls, competition rolls, hammer heads, immelmanns, inverted spins, and a variety of other aerobatic maneuvers, but she says, “it made me a safer pilot.”
“It keeps you on your toes and improves your skills,” Fala says. “Because the Pitts only has basic instrumentation, you fly more by the seat of your pants, so you have to understand what’s happening at all times and understand the aerodynamics behind the flight. If you don’t get the aerodynamics, you won’t perform as well in the flying part. Whereas like with the planes we fly usually, you can sometimes get away without knowing much. With aerobatics, you need to know how aerodynamics affect the performance of your airplane and what you need to do at each point in a maneuver.
“You fly the airplane at the end of the performance envelope. You fly the full envelope instead of staying around the one-g area. You take advantage of everything you have and get the maximum performance.”
F.A.S.T., a group of licensed female pilots, awarded three scholarships to support women who are trying to further their aviation training. Fala is hoping to get her flight instructor rating before December, using the funds from that scholarship. Fala, already a licensed commercial pilot, needs the flight instructor certificate to be able to teach others to fly. Upon completion of her doctorate, Fala hopes to stay in academia so she can continue doing research and teaching in an attempt to make aviation safer.
Fala quickly found F.A.S.T. was about much more than a scholarship. It’s a community, willing to embrace, support and encourage. What started as a secret Facebook group, Fala says, has grown into an organization with more than 9,000 members. And they’re members intent on fostering relationships within the aviation field.
For the application process, Fala answered a list of 12 questions that included who inspired her to fly, why she initially was interested in flying, what events and organizations she was involved in, and her aviation goals. She was impressed F.A.S.T. didn’t just see the answers as a means to a scholarship but as, truly, a way to see her for who she is through those answers.
After being involved in Purdue Pilots, Inc., for years and helping that club establish 25 percent female membership, Fala’s transition into the F.A.S.T. family is, in a way, a meaningful continuation of being able to impact other women in aviation.
“It’s hard to keep going when people keep doubting you or tell you that you can’t do it. So for them to not only see my efforts and encourage them and also give me money to help me continue, they’ve just been so supportive,” Fala says. “When people give you a scholarship, they give you a check and say, ‘Good luck.’ F.A.S.T. gave me a mentor. They sent flowers and letters. They say, ‘We’re excited to see what’s coming up. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.’ It’s just so inspiring.
“They see you trying to do something to help, and instead of being jealous or telling you that you can’t do it, they say, ‘I’m seeing you doing something great, how can I help you? How can I remove the obstacles for you? What’s stopping you and how I can help you get around it?’ They kind of give you the spotlight.”