The Air Up There Podcast
Off Course: One Pilot's Unexpected Journey

Season 6, Episode 15

Takeoff on a unique journey with our latest podcast episode featuring Victoria “V” Ross, a certificated pilot, who went from having zero interest in aviation to embracing a fulfilling career with the best office view in the skies .

It all started with a father and daughter bonding experience that was part of a much bigger plan. Call it parent’s intuition, V’s father knew she would love a career as a pilot if he could just give her a glimpse of what it was like. He was right! V joins us to share how his plan unfolded and ultimately lead her to the coveted role of a pilot.

In this episode, V discusses the challenges and triumphs that marked her path, aspects of pilot training, and advice for the next generation of pilots. She also reflects on her experience as a Black woman pilot and how she is breaking barriers and fostering diversity in the aviation community by mentoring others. 

Share this episode with colleagues, friends, and family. Whether you dream of ascending to new heights as a pilot or are simply fascinated by other people’s journeys, this episode is a must-listen.

Check out the FAA’s Pilots Portal where you’ll find information on certification, training, and the safety standards all pilots must know, consider, and meet to be airworthy.

Meet Our Guest:  
Victoria "V" Ross is a Certified Flight Instructor and a graduate of the American Airlines Cadet Academy. She is an active member of Sister of the Skies, Women in Aviation International, and The Ninety-Nines

Disclaimer: Reference in this podcast to any specific commercial product, process, service, manufacturer, company, or trademark does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the U.S. government, Department of Transportation, or Federal Aviation Administration. As an agency of the U.S. government, the FAA cannot endorse or appear to endorse any specific product or service.

The Air Up There: Off Course-One Pilot's Unexpected Journey
Off Course: One Pilot's Unexpected Journey
Audio file

V:    It took about, you know, a little over a year for me to get my private pilot's certificate. The whole process for me was very life changing. It definitely matured me. It humbled me in many areas and I just fell in love with it.

Kevin Morris: That’s V, a certificated pilot with a multi-engine rating. 

Lucy Jabbour: And she is our guest. We’re your hosts. I’m Lucy Jabbour. 

Kevin Morris: And I’m Kevin Morris, a former airline captain and flight instructor. And this is The Air Up There!

Various People: This is your captain speaking. The feeling I get when I’m flying; you get an adrenaline rush. Seeing something fly is awesome. It’s incredible to be able to fly. Flying airplanes is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I get so excited about aviation, aeronautics, space, engineering, and tech. Like star gazing and just wondering what it would be like to be up there. I just fell in love with it. Stick with your passion and pursue it. Just know you can do it. There is not a room, there is not a cockpit, there is not a place that you don’t belong. There’s certainly a place for everybody in aerospace.

Kevin Morris: As a pilot, I can tell you that the pathway to getting that certification can be a little unclear and sometimes overwhelming. 

Lucy Jabbour: If you’re interested in becoming a pilot but have no idea where to begin check out the FAA’s pilots portal.

Kevin Morris: No matter where you are in your piloting journey, the pilot’s portal is a really helpful resource where you can find info on things like certification, training, aircraft, and programs. 

Lucy Jabbour: It’s a great place to start and it’s easy to find. Just go to

Kevin Morris: Every pilot, if you were to ask them has a moment when they knew - I want to be a pilot. When was that moment for you?

V: That moment had to be after I got my private pilot's certificate. I hear a lot of stories, you know, from other cadets, and obviously other pilots that they were born to fly. Like, out of the womb, I knew I wanted to become a pilot, but I didn't have that story. I generally never had interest in becoming a pilot and it wasn't until after I got my private pilot's certificate that I really sat down and thought, like, I can do this. Like, this is what I want to do. I want to pursue this full time and I can't see myself going back to a typical nine to five sitting behind the desk. There's no way.

Lucy Jabbour: What were you doing then, before you became a pilot?

V: I was a office manager and processing visas and passports at the Department of Treasury and the State Department.

Lucy Jabbour: Where did you make that connection between doing what you were doing, processing visas and then aviation?

V: Well, I always love traveling. Like traveling in general has always been in my life, but what really got me to like, into the cockpit, into the flight deck was my father. My father worked on fighter jets in the Air Force and he always said, Hey, you should become a pilot, you know, you should fly. And I'm like, No. I'm not even interested. When he retired, he said that he was going to obtain his private pilot's certificate and he asked if I wanted to join him as just a father daughter bonding experience and I thought, well, maybe I should. Like, it's... it'll be fun. And then about a month and a half in my father actually quit and he used his resources to fully support me and helping me get to where I am now.

Kevin Morris: It almost sounds like your father had this plan from the beginning. He's like, well, if I do this, maybe V will join me and then I can just move her through. So...

V: Yep, that exactly was his plan. I asked him for Father's Day because I took him flying and I asked him like, why did you stop? Like you could have, we could have did this together. I would have helped you. And he was like, no, this was the plan all along. It's not that I'm not flying anymore. I'm now just flying through you and I knew if I could just like, show you what you're missing out on then you would go 100% and he was absolutely right.

Kevin Morris: So, you get your private pilot's certificate, which is kind of the first pilot license, if you will, that most people get. That's sort of your entry into piloting aircraft. What was it that sort of triggered the thought of, you know what, I want to do this for a living. I want the best office with the best view for the rest of my life.

V: Gradually, as I continued my lessons, I began to really enjoy flying. I began to enjoy like the aviation community and I just fell in love with it.

Lucy Jabbour: What about the aviation community did you like?

V: The people; just the incredible people that you get to meet. I'm currently a member of The Ninety-Nines. I'm a member of Women in Aviation, Sisters of the Skies, and OBAP. I'm a member of them as well. And it's just the people that you meet. Everyone is so willing to help you like succeed. Willing to be a mentor and they're just so giving in the aviation community, because we're just like, we're small. We're a small knit community you don't... It’s not every day you meet another pilot. So, when you do it’s just really exciting and you really just want to give all this knowledge. Give all, you know, the support that you can and that's what I received from other aviators.

Lucy Jabbour: So, you get to flight school. What is the first thing you kind of notice? 

V: The lack of diversity. I was actively looking for people who looked like me and granted since this year that I've been here, the cadet academy has made tremendous strides in diversifying the community here, which I'm really proud to be a part of. But when I first got here, we were very few and far between. 

Lucy Jabbour: What does it mean for you to be a Black woman and a pilot?

V: Monumental. When I think about becoming a pilot and when I think about who I am. Knowing that I am literally one of less than 3% of people out there who look like me who can say that they have the best office view in the world. It's extraordinary. It's monumental. It's powerful. I feel extremely honored and extremely privileged to be in the space that I am right now. What hasn't changed and what's never going to change is me being a support system to other women of color and other young aviators. That's, that's just who I am and that's always going to be a constant in my life is being a mentor.
Kevin Morris: How did you overcome that seemingly that bit of intimidation of - I don't see a lot of people like me?

V: Yeah, it, it was very intimidating and there has been days where I struggled with not feeling good enough, or struggled with the thoughts of kind of impostor syndrome. Like, am I supposed to be here? Like, do I belong here? But I just, you know, received encouragement from my support system, my husband, my family, the aviation groups, my mentors, and I know who I am. You really have to be your own advocate and I just show up for myself.

Kevin Morris: So, if somebody's going to ask you what was it like to get that private pilot's certificate? You can just fly an airplane all on your own. Like, what is that all about? What's that process like?

V: It's hard. It’s the hardest thing I've ever done in my life, to be completely honest. Just from the outside looking in, it was very confusing. It took about, you know, a little over a year for me to get my private pilot's certificate. The whole process for me was very life changing. It definitely matured me. It humbled me in many areas. It pushed me through a lot of fear and anxiety that I had.  

Kevin Morris: I want to ask you about something that no pilot ever forgets. What was your first solo like?

V: It was scary. It was so scary. First of all, it took me so long to solo because I had a crippling fear of flying the plane by myself, but thank God for my instructor. He was so patient with me and he's like, I know you're ready V. It's the perfect time. There's zero wind. There's no one in the traffic pattern. It's early morning. These are the perfect conditions. You're doing it and I'm like, you sure? He's like, no, you're doing it. And I'm like, okay and then I did it and I was just like, well, I'm done. Give me my certificate right now. Like I passed. I'm ready.

Kevin Morris: At the end, once you get your private pilot's certificate. You have that slip of paper from the FAA. What's that feeling like?

V: Incredible, like, there's no words to describe how that feels. I cried actually. It was just overwhelming knowing that all that hard work that I did, like, wow. Like, I'm one of few.

Kevin Morris: We talked about the private pilot. That's your first license or whatever and then you think of the airline pilot. You're in the airport terminal. You got the white shirt with the shoulder boards on and the tie and the hat and everything. Where would you say you are on that pathway and what's next? What's ahead of you?

V: Well, I'm currently in certified flight instruction, instructing school. So, I'm working on my CFI. Afterwards, I will get my CFII and then I will start building hours. I currently have about 340 hours right now. So, a little ways to go to 1500, but I'm already a PSA cadet. So, once I get that 1500, I'll just move on to American and then flow through the system and that'll be that.

Kevin Morris: So, for a lot of folks that are listening, one of the things you need to do, as V was pointing out is you, you only have so many hours when you get all your pilot ratings. But to get hired at an airline, you need about 1500 hours on average and you have to find a way to bridge that gap. And a lot of people do flight instruction to help earn and build your hours and get that experience. So... 

Lucy Jabbour: I didn't know that about being a pilot. How there's kind of a gap with how you get those hours. I thought that was like built into training. V what is like one thing about being a pilot that like somebody like me might not know?

V: It's extremely expensive. I feel like aviation is extremely glamorized, which rightfully so. It's an amazing career. It's incredible to be able to fly, but the amount of money it costs is overlooked. I think people just have this idea, like, oh, I'll just be a pilot and I feel like they, they know it costs money, but they don't know, it costs money. If it wasn't for cadet academies, like American Airlines, or United Aviate, or Delta Propel. I don't think I would be able to have gotten this far. I mean, I know I would have, but not in the timeframe it took me. Just because of the financial burden. 

Kevin Morris: So, there's a lot of people listening to the podcast that are thinking the same thing you did, which was maybe I want to do this for a career. What advice do you have for this next generation of pilots?

V: Don't be so hard on yourself. Aviation and pilot training is strenuous. It’s stressful. It's hard. There's a lot of math involved, but you don't need to be a math whiz, because I'm not. So, you can do it. I think taking breaks and giving yourself grace is great advice to hold on to, because at the end of the day, while you are a pilot, that's not who you are and you still have to stay true to yourself and you have to give yourself some space and time to decompress and really enjoy the journey, because it'll go by like that.

FAA Pilot’s Portal PSA: Welcome on board, pilots. This is your FAA speaking and we have some information about how we can make your life more efficient. Our flight time is just a quick click to the FAA’s pilots portal at At our destination, you’ll discover how to update your certificate information, MedXPress, test guides, study tips, guidance, the FAA Safety Team, handbooks, forms, and FAA contacts. It’s time to take off for the pilots portal. Don’t forget to readback all website destination instructions:

Lucy Jabbour: Thanks for listening! For more information about today’s guest, check out Subscribe, like, follow where ever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out on new episodes. Coming up, in the next episode of The Air Up There...

Ashlee Cooper: He launches the drone and we’re using the camera and he looks down and he says, wait, where are we? And I’m like, what do you mean? And he’s like, it looks so beautiful. But he pointed, he said, is that my house? It looks so beautiful over here. I’m pretty sure, based off of what he shared, he had probably never described his community as beautiful.