Christine Chapelle triumphs over plane crash by learning to fly

Marthe Jatun, Staff Writer

For most people, experiencing a plane crash would probably keep them from developing an interest in flying. But for senior Christine Chappelle, it was the opposite.
At ten years old, Chappelle was flying home with her family in a small plane from a vacation in Utah. But just thirty minutes away from her final destination, the engine on their single-engine Cessna quit. In a hurried landing, the front wheel touched down incorrectly, and the plane flipped over. Fortunately, Chappelle emerged from the accident without serious injuries.
“For me, it’s all about proving to myself that I’m bigger than what happened to me in the crash,” Chappelle said. “I’m not afraid of the negative experiences that I have had in my life.”
Even after the crash, Chappelle has taken an interest in flying. It all started with her dad, a pilot, taking her family on trips in small planes.
“I have so many fun memories from flying that I wanted to experience myself,” Chappelle said. “The views, the feeling of going places that most people don’t go to is very rewarding,” Chappelle said.
As a freshman, Chappelle received a scholarship from Cascade Warbirds, a charitable organization, for ground school, and started taking classes at Boeing field. Last summer she flew solo for a total of forty hours and is going back this summer to get her pilot’s license.
“Even though flying is fun for the most part, it is also very challenging both mentally and physically,” Chappelle said. “Flying for three to four hours all by yourself can be very hard because you have to have control over all the instruments and all the data to make the plane go in the right speed and direction, and to communicate with the tower. It’s all about becoming familiar with the vehicle and getting comfortable enough to be able to enjoy yourself while staying focused.”
In the long term, Chappelle plans to fly as a hobby. But as she plans to study aerospace engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next year, Chappelle says her experience with flying will prove beneficial.
“It will give me valuable insight into the field that others may not have,” Chappelle said.
Chappelle said that if people are more interested in getting their pilot’s license, the aviation community is interested in cultivating that interest in youth.
“They are more willing to help and mentor people than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Chappelle said. “I encourage you to contact a local flying club or pay a visit to Renton field and strike up a conversation with anyone there.”