HANCOCK COUNTY — Looking through the airplane window over her shoulder, Delaney Beale had an amazing view several thousand feet above the ground.
With her headset nestled snugly on her head and the microphone near her mouth, Delaney Beale paused for a brief second and snapped a selfie of her piloting the Cessna 172 airplane.
“I like being up,” she said. “It’s a little stressful sometimes thinking, ‘hey, I’m flying a plane,’ but, I love it.”
Beale, 18, a recent New Palestine High School graduate, will head to Purdue University this fall to study aviation. Her goal is to become a professional pilot — an unusual field of study for a female, she said.
“A lot of people like to make a big deal about me being a girl and flying, but I don’t even think about it,” she said.
In fact, Beale can’t wait to get to college, where she’s heard she will be in aviation classes where it is expected to be an 80 percent male to 20 percent female ratio in her field of study.
“I’m like ‘hey, I might get a boyfriend out of this,’” she said with a laugh.
Beale’s love of flying began a few years ago when she took a ride in a plane with one of her friends. She became hooked on being up in the sky and selected her career path shortly after.
The goal is to get someone to pay her to fly their plane, she said.
“I don’t care what kind of plane it is,” she said, “As long as I can fly it.”
Always a good student, Beale graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA. She seemed to be on the path to doing something different than most of her peers at an early age, said Davinna Beale, her mother.
When she was a third-grader, teachers told the family Beale was a detail-oriented child and had a great imagination.
“I believe her love of adventure and flying will make her job as a pilot seem less like a job and more like an adventure,” her mother said.
By the time Beale heads to college, she plans to be a visual flight reference-rated pilot. It means she can fly anywhere by herself as long as weather conditions are good enough for her to see where she is going.
If all goes well, she’ll graduate from Purdue University as a professional instrument reference-rated pilot. The rating will allow her to be hired as a professional pilot with the training to fly most any equipment.
Delaney is taking beginner flying lessons at the Shelbyville Municipal Airport with flight instructor Darrell Shrader. He’s been training student pilots for 36 years and said it is rare for a woman to take flying lessons.
He’s helped train a few though, including two women who are currently professional pilots for major airlines.
His latest female student pilot — Beale — is doing a great job of learning the basics about aviation, he said. She’s done her solo — taken off, flown and landed a plane on her own, and she has several hours of flying time, nearly 40, already under her belt.
“She’s really committed herself and has soaked it all up like a sponge,” he said. “Flying a plane can be a scary thing for anyone, but she has built that confidence as she has gone along.”
Beale needs to make a couple of cross-country trips, where she flies several miles on her own and take a final test before she earns her basic pilot’s license, but she hopes to have it by the time she heads to college.
Though Beale considers herself ‘book smart,’ and most classes so far have been a breeze, her chosen career path challenges her mental faculties.
“Taking flying lessons actually requires some effort,” she said.
Beale’s mother enjoys having a daughter who branches out to explore life in a manner most wouldn’t attempt. She knows Beale is the type of young adults who is apt to try to push and challenge herself, while having fun, she said.
“Maybe she’ll give hot air balloon rides as a side job,” her mother said. “The sky is the limit and it’s pretty big.”