Achieving the Dream of Flight and Helping Others Do the Same

CrystalIn 2019, it was daughter Mackenzie’s 10th birthday and she wanted a ride in a private airplane as her present. Crystal Hoffman, mom to Mackenzie and four other children, agreed. What Crystal couldn't foresee was what a life-changing experience it would become for herself as it launched her onto the path of becoming a private pilot.

That first trip from Ramona to the Pacific coastline and back was provided by a volunteer pilot with the Young Eagles, a national program that gives young people under age 18 an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane.

After the trip, the pilot noticed Hoffman’s family of five children. Hoffman recalled the conversation: “The pilot said to me, “I see that you have a big family”. And, then he asked, “Have you ever thought of becoming a pilot,’' which was the farthest thing from my mind.”

Son Cody, age 12 at the time, overheard the conversation and chimed in: “Yeah, mom, if you become a pilot, then you can teach all of us how to fly,” according to Hoffman. “That’s how it started, and life has never been the same since,” she said.

In addition to raising children along with husband Chris, an electrical contractor, homeschooling the older children, serving as a Girl Scout Troop leader and working as a mobile notary, Hoffman spent most of 2020 studying to earn her private pilot’s license. After completing the minimum requirement of 40 hours of flight training, she received her private pilot’s certificate in March 2021.

Her early flying days included a scary experience. In August 2020 after her second solo flight, she took off from Ramona and was flying over San Pasqual Valley when the plane’s engine began violently shaking, and engine power reduced. She immediately radioed Ramona tower and landed safely.

“After the partial engine failure, I reverted back to my training and was thankful to land on the ground safely. As a low time student pilot, it shook me up enough to take a 6 week break from flying.”

San-Diego-99s-hero-featureThen, she met a group of women with the San Diego chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots who mentor and support other women pilots. “I attended a chapter meeting and shared my scary experience,” Hoffman said. “They encouraged me and told me the only way to overcome my fears was to climb back into the airplane and fly again. It was exactly what I needed to hear. The next morning, I got back into the plane.” 

Today, Hoffman is serving on the local Ninety-Nines board of directors.

In addition, Hoffman is leading a bi-monthly study-and-support group of aspiring recreational and professional pilots at the Ramona Flight Training Center (FTC), based at Chuck Hall Aviation at the Ramona Airport. 

“It’s a great experience to help and encourage each other,” said Hoffman. “It’s very gratifying to support other men and women in their aviation journey and help everyone achieve their flying dreams.”

Crystal CMEL-1Currently at the FTC, about 35 students are in the process of earning various certificates from private to flight instructor ratings.

 “Our aviation community in Ramona is more like a family,” said Hoffman. “We host fun events, such as hangar movie nights and potluck barbeques. We have truly created an atmosphere where people feel accepted and encouraged.”

# # #