Caught a flight and a dream

Joyce L. Miller
Lake Sun, USA TODAY NETWORK
Alexander Strickland, of Eldon, upon completion of his checkride in May 2020.

It happened one Saturday when Marie Williams was about eight years old. She caught a flight that captured her imagination and lead to a dream. It was the day she climbed into a small private plane during a Young Eagles Day, took off and never looked back. It was a ride that, literally, changed the course of her life. It was the day she found her dream.

Williams, of Osage Beach, said she doesn’t remember much about that day except the feeling of anticipation as she waited in line and the excitement as the pilot took off and climbed into the sky. The view from above was something she has never forgotten nor tired of as she has pursued her dream.

Today, at 19, Williams is a licensed private pilot studying aviation at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Her goal is to one day become a commercial pilot.

While most college kids spend their summers hanging out on the lake or with friends, once or twice a week, Williams makes the trip to Jefferson City to fly.

In the cockpit of a Cessna 150, Williams feels at home. For her, every flight is exciting and brings her closer to her goal.

"It's exhilarating, the most amazing experience," she said. "And peaceful. It is so peaceful up there."

Williams said her advice to other young people interested in aviation is to research, make a plan and ‘have at it.’”

Getting to where she is and pursuing her dream, hasn't always been easy. It required a lot of time and dedication, juggling school and lessons. Fortunately, Williams said her parents were always supportive and encouraged her. With that support, Williams was able to participate in the Young Eagles EAA program, take lessons, and through her hard work landed a Ray Scholars Scholarship for her education.

Loy Rickman is one of the lake area pilots who is part of the Young Eagles EEA program. He's been involved for about 12 years giving flights during Young Eagle Days to kids in Camdenton, Osage Beach and Eldon and working with students who show an interest in aviation. His love of flying goes back to when he joined the Navy and flew as a radio operator.

"I really enjoyed that and decided that was something I wanted to learn," he said. And he did. Fifty-four years later, he is still flying. These days he is piloting a Grumman Traveler that seats four. Over the years, Rickman said during the various events, he has taken about 240 kids on flights, each lasts about 25 minutes.

"There's always a little apprehension and excitement. Once we get up, they enjoy the heck out of it," he said. "So far, I have never had to turn around."

Rickman, who is a member of EEA Chapter 1254, will be one of the pilots offering free rides on Aug. 14. at the Young Eagles Flight Rally at the Camdenton Memorial Lake Regional Airport.

“EAA Chapter 1254 has awarded a $10,000 private pilot training scholarship to a lake area youth in each of the last three years. All three of our scholarship youth took their first flight at a Chapter 1254 Young Eagles event.,” Rickman,said. "It's a great experience."

Marie Williams, of Osage Beach, upon completion of her checkride in April 2021.