Eye in the sky

Senior completes solo cross-country flight to get pilot’s license


Photo contributed

Wearing headphones, senior Kendyll Bigsbee poses for a photo in the cockpit of an airplane.

Luci Sendelbach, Staff Writer

Senior Kendyll Bigsbee looked out the window at the calm sky filled with stars. Below her, the lights of downtown Indianapolis illuminated the skyline. She was not a passenger, however. She was flying the plane. 

In the cockpit of an airplane, Bigsbee said she feels a sense of peace. 

Since June 2022, Bigsbee has been flying weekly to prepare for her cross-country flight to officially become a pilot.

“Every week, I fly at Greenwood Airport,” Bigsbee said. “I have an instructor there, and I fly with her sometimes.”

Bigsbee was first interested in flying because she loved to travel so much. She shares that passion with her father, who helped introduce her to piloting.

“My dad used to fly with his friend when he was younger,” Bigsbee said. “So I asked him if I could do a 30-minute discovery flight to see what it was like. Since then, I have always loved to fly.”

Other than her dad, Bigsbee has had another influence: her instructor. Clarice Tweeten has helped Bigsbee learn more than just the basics of flying.

“My instructor, Clarice, is a very outgoing, carefree person,” Bigsbee said. “She makes sure that I stay on track and to always work hard for the things that I want in life. My instructor is always there for me, and she teaches me a lot.”

To get her Private Pilot License, which is similar to a driver’s license for a car, Bigsbee had to do a cross-country flight. For her flight, she flew east to Richmond, Indiana, and back to Greenwood, a 164-mile round trip.

“My first two cross country flights I did with my instructor Clarice to learn and be able to understand what was going on when I was in the air,” Bigsbee said. “The last one I just did, I did by myself. This flight meant a lot to me because I had worked very hard for it. I was very proud of myself, and it just felt amazing because not only is it a flight that has to be over 50 nautical miles, but there is a lot of planning that comes with it as well. I was also just happy that I was able to do it all on my own without anyone having to guide me through anything, and I was just all around well prepared.”

While doing her cross country flight, Bigsbee had to be prepared for different situations, including how to communicate with the air traffic controllers.

It’s really challenging when you first get into all of it,” Bigsbee said. “I was really nervous to talk to the air traffic controllers.”

Though piloting has challenges, Bigsbee said she plans to continue her flying in the future. She wants to go to school somewhere she will be able to fly and grow her knowledge for the future.

“I’m not sure about college, but I know that I want to go to LIFT Academy and fly through their program,” Bigsbee said.

LIFT Academy is a flight school in Indianapolis, where Bigsbee hopes to continue her passion for flying and soon become a pilot.

“LIFT Academy is a flight school right next to the Indianapolis International Airport,” Bigsbee said. “I like their program because it is very straightforward, and the path that they have made will allow me to get a job right once I finish and get all of the ratings and hours that are needed to be a commercial pilot.” 

Bigsbee hopes to pursue flying for even bigger reasons than just to travel: she hopes to be one of the few women aviators and be a part of that change going forward.

“I would love to pursue flying as a career because flying means a lot to me,” Bigsbee said. Also there are not many women in aviation, and I would like to be a part of the change to show that women can fly just as well as men. I love traveling, and just being in the cockpit makes me feel very happy and at peace. Flying also allows me to see the world from a different angle that not many are able to see, and it is a very beautiful site to see.”