There is a famous riddle that goes “a doctor and a nurse have a child. The child’s mother, however, is not the nurse and the father is not the doctor. How is this true?”
Answer: the doctor is the mother and the nurse is the father. Certain jobs simply connote male participation. One such profession, I found, was pilot.
I am new to the Tampa Bay area and work as a traffic reporter for Metro Networks. During my first week of initiation and training, a co-worker recommended I fly with our new traffic pilot to become familiar with local interstates, main bridges, and general infrastructure.
We both assumed, unconsciously, that I would fly with a male pilot. We both assumed incorrectly.
Michelle Bostick, 41-years-old, has been fascinated with helicopters ever since she was a child. In the early 90s, she served four-years in the U.S. Army, which offered her more exposure to helicopters.
After her contract ended with the U.S. Army, she went to college at the University of South Florida and received a Bachelors of Science in Education. She was a schoolteacher for 10 years, but never let her dream of becoming a helicopter pilot fade.
One Christmas, Bostick bought her husband an introductory flight lesson certificate since he had also expressed interest in flying. As it turns out, some people are not cut out for flying in the air at high speeds. Bostick decided to make good on her earliest ambition.
“I was truly terrified and hooked at the same moment in my introductory ride,” said Bostick with a smile.
It helped that her instructor was female, and after three lessons, Bostick knew that she was meant to be a pilot. She enrolled in flight school at Air Orlando and graduated in 2005.
“My favorite part of flying is sense of freedom and the sense of control over my environment. It’s like being a master of my own little space. I love the sense of accomplishment after each flight,” expressed Bostick.
Bostick began flying for Metro Networks last February.
“The main mission is traffic reporting.”
Photojournalists sit in the back of her helicopter taking footage of car accidents and breaking news stories reporting information back to Metro Networks, Bay News 9 and Fox News. All the while, she shepherds them through the air.
Flying the helicopter, however, equates to only forty percent of her responsibilities.
“I have to make sure the weather is ok, check weight and balance, engine check, pre-flight and brief my passengers,” she explained.
Reporting on traffic patterns is inevitably tied to tragedy and heartbreak, a reality that Bostick has to deal with.
“Just last week there was a motorcyclist hit by a car and the motorcyclist was under a tarp and traffic was at an absolute standstill. I do become compartmentalized because it’s my job but at the same time I know that the victim is someone’s son, mother or brother underneath the tarp.”
Bostick flies the Metro Networks helicopter in the mornings and late afternoons. In between the morning and afternoon flights, she and the photojournalist are on standby for breaking news stories.