Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m an aviation geek (see my photo above, scroll to last). A total plane nerd. The polite phrase is “very interested,” but if you asked my friends and family, they would use the word “obsessed.”
I didn’t always want to be an air traffic controller. When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian and later went to California State University, Chico for nursing. But, by the end of my first semester, I found that although I enjoyed nursing, I didn’t love it. That realization was a defining point for me, and I recognized that for me to be happy, I would need to find a career I loved. I needed to look forward to my work every day, and I would need to be challenged to be excellent.
I grew up about a mile from SFO and always had an interest in aviation. But from my point of view, aviation wasn’t a career that was open to me. It’s not that I was discouraged from pursuing it, but I didn’t let myself truly consider it. The industry is extremely male dominated for one thing. It is also heavily STEM-oriented, and math and science were not my favorite subjects in school, which led me to believe I wasn’t good at them. And that’s where Hiller Aviation Museum comes in.
One of my favorite experiences at the museum was when we had a field trip group of high schoolers from a low-income school in Monterey, who had recently been studying aviation. One young lady was explaining to me that this interested her, but that she felt somewhat alone and that she wasn’t sure she would succeed.
I too had been in that situation and I knew that sometimes words just aren’t enough to banish the feeling of not being good enough. At that point she and I listened to the live air traffic control at San Francisco Tower and watched the Lufthansa A380 roll gently into its left turn to line up for approach at SFO, and the commanding voice of Kerstin Felser, one of the first women to pilot the A380, checked on the frequency. “She’s flying that?” the student asked me and watched in awe as the largest commercial aircraft in the world, weighing 1.3 million pounds, cut gracefully through the sky. The student told me at the end of the day that she planned to be the first in her family to attend college, and intended to get her degree in aviation, realizing that she, in fact, did belong in this amazing community.
So to me, Hiller is not just a museum and the people aren’t just my colleagues, but my family. I was given a place where my dreams were reality. My museum family encouraged me at every step through my year-long Air Traffic Control Academy application. Now having passed the academy, I will continue to be a part of this family, as I complete my training over the next three years at the Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center.
By giving to the museum, you’re not only helping preserve valuable aviation history, you’re also ensuring that children will have access to science, technology, engineering, and math. You’re the reason why our tomorrow will be brighter than our today. You’re the reason why a child will be empowered to achieve what was once impossible to them. You’re the reason why innovation and inspiration will thrive.
My name is Sarah Farney, I’m a developmental air traffic controller, and I want to say thank you.
Donate via Razoo or visit www.hiller.org/donate to make a gift today and help inspire the next generation of aviators, adventurers, and innovators.
Hiller Aviation Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, was opened to the public in 1998 by helicopter designer and inventor Stanley Hiller Jr. and features over 50 aircraft from more than a century of aviation history. It is visited by 99,000 people each year, including 47,000 youth, many of whom participate in Aviation Camp, K-12 school field trips, and public programming. Since opening, the Museum has served over 1.5 million visitors.
The Museum celebrates the spirit of discovery and innovation of aviation pioneers whose creativity made flight possible. Core museum programs for school children are based on state and national academic standards and support K-12 school curricula in history and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), including interactive, hands-on programs developed in partnership with NASA.
Our Mission: We use aviation as a gateway for people to embrace adventure and innovation while using tools of science to explore how the physical world works and how the dream of flight is made into reality.