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Taking To The Air: Area Women Learn To Fly At Jamestown Airport

Pictured are Christine Beichner-Miller, Terra Ferchak, Georgia Mason, Lisa Jukes and Stephanie Marchincin, a group of women who have undertaken flying lessons from Majestic Aviation at Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

The sky’s the limit for several area women.

Christine Beichner-Miller, Terra Ferchak, Georgia Mason, Lisa Jukes and Stephanie Marchincin have all undertaken flying lessons with Majestic Aviation at the Chautauqua County-Jamestown Airport. Randy Nalbone, owner of Majestic Aviation, said he’s glad to have the women taking part in lessons, as he believes flying is for everyone, even though it is often a male-dominated field.

“I grew up flying, and my sister’s a pilot, and I have female cousins that fly, so I just thought it was normal that everyone who wanted to fly could fly,” Nalbone said. “We don’t specifically target anybody, we just open it up to everybody, but we’re thrilled that we have several gals in the camp here and they’re all doing a nice job.”

Nalbone said he believes women are more gifted at flying.

“I think girls fly better than boys,” he said. “You have to be able to multitask. My wife picks on me because she could juggle chainsaws and raise the children all at the same time while she’s cooking, and I sit there — it’s hard to just watch TV.”

Marchincin said she grew up near the airport and made a habit out of watching the planes.

“My older brother actually did his training here, and I was a passenger with him for several years,” she said. “A couple of months ago I just decided that I wanted to learn how to fly instead of being a passenger. I took my first lesson in May, soloed in June, and right now I’m working my check-ride prep for my private pilot’s certificate.”

Marchincin said flying offers a break from stress and everyday issues.

“There’s so much (I love about flying), but I think for me when you’re flying you’re really in the moment, and you’re really focused on what you’re doing,” she said. “You really just get to enjoy the beautiful scenery. We live in such a pretty area with Chautauqua Lake and Lake Erie. It’s incredible to be on your own flying.”

Ferchak said she took her first discovery flight 20 years ago.

“Life happened, and financially I wasn’t able to swing it,” she said. “But I now have a 7-year-old who is fascinated with all things aviation. My goal one day is to sit on a plane and teach him a thing to two. So I started here within Majestic in May and took my first lesson. I first took lessons out of Buffalo, I took lessons out of Erie, and then came here to Jamestown.”

While Ferchak said she has taken lessons elsewhere, she said Jamestown is her favorite place to learn.

“It’s a great airport to learn at; it’s slow with a nice pace — plus it’s beautiful scenery,” she said. “Flying never gets old. It is challenging and rewarding and beautiful.”

Beichner-Miller said flying has been on what she calls her “life list.”

“Back in high school, instead of a bucket list, I created a life list of goals that I wanted to achieve of new and interesting things that I could do,” Beichner-Miller said. “I’ve been slowly checking those things off as I go along, and I realized that being a pilot was still on there. For a long time, I thought that was a goal out of my reach. But I realized that it’s not — it is possible. I found Randy, and I’ve been here for two years now.”

She said there are various things that she enjoys about flying, but one in particular often applies to life in general.

“One of the things I like best is something Randy says when you’re in the pilot seat,” Beichner-Miller said. “He’ll say ‘PIC,’ which is you’re the pilot in command. It’s not just about being the pilot in command in that seat for that day. I find that I’ve taken that into my real life. That’s just a lesson I try to think about all the time. I am the pilot in command of how I want my life to be. I have a 3-year-old now, and I think about that for him all the time. I want him to feel in charge of his own life and to be able to make decisions and do what he wants to do.”

Mason said she got involved in aviation through her sister’s friend. He earned his pilot’s license, and she decided she was interested in it as well.

“I was like, ‘Why not? We’re in a pandemic, and we don’t know what’s coming for us,'” Mason said. “I’m going to get my license and just kind of see what I can do.”

Mason said she has also been involved in the program since May. She said she loves flying because it is more carefree than other activities.

“Just being able to be up in the air, and nothing else matters in that instant,” she said. “There are no worries — I’m able to just kind of be out there, experience the moment, and see what’s above me,” she said. “I live right by the airport, and airplanes fly over all the time. So it’s cool that I’ve started noticing the planes more and ask, ‘Where are they headed? Who’s flying today?'”

Jukes said aviation runs in her family. She remembers fondly flying all over the place with her stepdad, and later decided that she wanted to try her hand at it. Her friend, Alan Fuller, brought up the idea to her and also helped her fly rescue dogs across the county.

“When he took me up flying, he was like ‘Here, do you want to fly?’ And I’m like ‘No, I don’t want to crash the plane,'” she said. “It’s not as difficult as I assumed it to be. I have about 12 hours in.”

Majestic Aviation has a rich history in the area. The company began in 1946, Nalbone said. His grandfather started the flight school at Whirley airport in Dunkirk, near the Dunkirk Airport. He eventually moved to the Dunkirk airport, the company became Dunkirk Aviation, and later offered services at the Jamestown Airport as well.

“In 2017, my wife and I took the business over and changed the name to Majestic Aviation,” he said.

For more information on flying lessons and other services, visit flymajesticaviation.com.

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