Aviation and flying are so steeped in Samantha Anderson’s family’s legacy she was destined to be a pilot.

Anderson’s mother, Sherry, was one of the first woman pilots for a large commercial airline in the 1980s when such things were unheard of. Sherry was taught by her husband, Sherman, who was a pilot in Vietnam.

“My mom always said it’s cheap to learn how to fly when you’re married to a pilot,” Anderson said.

When Samantha arrived on the scene about 16 years after they married, it was a foregone conclusion, “this child will learn to fly.” Anderson’s mother was even her certified flight instructor when she took her first solo flight at the age of 16.

Tragically, both of Anderson’s parents died in a plane crash about a year after Anderson’s first solo flight. It would have been understandable if Anderson never got on a plane again, let alone flown one.

But, like her parents, flying is something that brings her joy and a thrill she can’t describe. So after some time, Anderson got into the cockpit once again and made the decision to accomplish all of her dreams. And her dreams have included receiving her master’s degree in education from Virginia Tech, pursuing even more flight certifications, and being crowned Miss United States in October. The latter is something she had been trying to accomplish for a long time, four years in fact.

When Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater heard her story, and the fact that Anderson is using her platform to promote women in aviation, they knew they wanted her to come work for them. Anderson now works for Dynamic remotely as a partner relations specialist.

Anderson was present at Saturday’s Nextgen Aviators event, a family-friendly event aimed at informing the next generation that there is more to aviation than being a pilot or a mechanic.

Anderson spoke to the crowd, sharing her story and her message that everyone, but young women in particular, has a place in aviation and they shouldn’t let anyone deter them.

“I can’t tell you how many men have told me to get out of aviation and make some babies,” Anderson said. “Well, for now, my pilot’s license is my baby.”

It’s hard to say how many people came out to Saturday’s event, held at Dynamic Aviation’s airspace in Bridgewater, said Jackson Heverly, marketing coordinator. But by 11 a.m., less than halfway through the event, it was estimated that 700 people had attended.

There were flight activities, maintenance activities, speakers, including U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Botetourt, along with Anderson. The country’s very first Air Force One, which flew former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was on display, along with many of the planes that were important to the Stoltzfus family, owners of Dynamic.

Saturday’s event was an open house to show the community what Dynamic is, a company that specializes in anything and everything aviation, Heverly said.

Recently Dynamic launched the Nexgen Aviators program, which partners with local, state and national companies to fund educational programs for Virginia middle and high school students to teach them that there is more to being in aviation than just piloting.

“If they want to be an artist, we tell them, you could paint planes. There is a need for that right now,” Heverly said.

Heading up the program is Anthony Whitehead, school relations and engagement specialist for Dynamic. The program has been in the works since August 2020 and kicked off in fall of last year. Although the program has been in existence for less than a year, it has already served more than 3,000 students.

“Whether or not they go into aviation, the program is meant to inspire with aviation,” Whitehead said. “We hope they discover something about themselves and use that to figure out what’s next for them.”

This was originally posted by The Daily News Record HERE