Growing up in a small farming community in Tennessee, Natalie Kelley was never excited about growing up and having a traditional career. But as she became a young adult, she decided to choose a “safe” path, and graduated with a degree in Business as a marketing major.
“My majors changed a number of times. I was a very “unsettled” student,” she recalls.
As a young woman, her father’s influence led her to dream of something bigger. A former Navy pilot and career pilot with FedEx, her dad peppered her with gifts from his trips and tales of his travels. Natalie’s Uncle Robert also guided her towards her love of the sky.
“He owned and maintained his own aerobatic planes and performed in airshows, and still does, after 50 years! It was definitely not “usual” in our small town of farmers for someone to own an airplane,” Natalie says. “He would take me flying because his two sons weren’t all that interested in flying and I loved it! He knew I loved it and continued to encourage me throughout my life to get my pilot’s license. We would attend airshows together and talk aviation quite often. He was my true inspiration.”
It was from Uncle Robert’s spark and Natalie’s desire to share her passion that flyGIRL was born.
“I wanted to create some clothing to wear that was stylish and had a catchy logo for women; I wanted something to wear that would advertise to the world that I was a pilot. In doing that, hoping that other women would see it and ask me about it, and I could then hopefully plant a seed for another female to be intrigued and possibly pursue aviation,” she explains. “I wanted to build a social community through the various social media avenues of women who love aviation as much as I do so that we could support one another with pictures of our adventures or encouraging words. And I wanted to financially help other women who were interested in pursuing aviation, either as a hobby or a career. Flight training is expensive and intimidating for women; I wanted to be able to relieve some of that financial burden and provide encouragement with mentoring or just being available as a cheerleader.” So she set out to start flyGIRL, LLC.
Natalie started a scholarship program through flyGIRL to help promote women who want to take to the skies. Beyond her high-flying philanthropy and business savvy, Natalie makes it a point to fly at least three days a week for lessons. “And I’ll take my plane out any time the weather cooperates,” she adds.
On the ground, she’s a proud mother of three boys, she even makes sure to be back on time after her jaunts to the airport in order to welcome them home from school.
“I have three teenage boys who act like they could care less if I’m at home or not, but being present and available has always been of utmost importance to me. Although, there are many days when faced with their teenaged attitudes, that I want to fly away and stay away!” she jokes.
It’s the balance between satisfying her personal goals and being a self-sacrificing stay-at-home mother that has shifted her into a new phase of life. Her joy in the sky and glee for aviation has prompted her to shift her earth-bound career path. She’s looking to gain flight hours and trainings in order to make a living as a pilot.
“At first, I was concerned that I was too old for a new “life” or career, but I’ve spoken with many people and am constantly encouraged that I’m definitely not too old and there are a large number of opportunities available for me, especially since I’m a woman,” Natalie says. Her zest and curiosity has led to blogging and vlogging her flight training and experiences, and she’s enthusiastic to share her fresh start in the sky on social media (see it here: on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter).
As for other earthly girls who are looking up, Natalie has this to say:
“Pursue the things that you really enjoy, don’t listen to everyone else. We all have special gifts and talents, God wants us to use those. Don’t live your whole life settling on the things others enjoy or want, it will not be satisfying and you will feel empty. Only you have to live with yourself. Life goes by fast and is too short!”
For this soaring quest for personal and aviation inspiration, we think Natalie Kelley is one Cool Girl!
Keep up with all her adventures: https://www.flygirlllc.com
A $200 donation was made to FlyGirl on behalf of Natalie. You can donate here.