Bird's-eye view

Bird's-eye view

Jun 01, 2007

Ready for takeoff: Dr. Christine Ortner and her husband, Dr. Paul Ortner, an endodontist, with their Columbia 400 at the Aurora State Airport in Aurora, Ore.
I used to be afraid of flying on commercial flights. I eventually overcame that fear, but I was still terrified of small planes. My husband grew up flying with his father and two years ago he got the itch to start flying again. He wanted to buy a plane and start traveling more. I told him I didn't think I would be able to go anywhere in a small plane. But he had a good idea: I should go to ground school. Once I understood how everything works and the physics of flying, I wouldn't be afraid anymore.

So I went to night school for 12 weeks but it didn't work; I was still afraid. I decided that if I could learn to fly and how to get the plane safely to the ground if something happened to my husband, I would be OK. I had tears in my eyes during my entire first lesson and I thought I'd never see my 1-year-old son again. But with each lesson I became less fearful. I got my license after 150 hours of lessons. Before you can take your practical exam in the plane, you have to pass the written test for the Federal Aviation Administration—it's like the national board exam for veterinarians. I was the first of my instructor's students ever to get a perfect score. Fear is a great motivator for studying. I'm continuing my training to get my instrument rating so that I can be an even better, safer pilot.

When I mention to my clients that I'm a pilot, I'm often surprised to learn how many other people are, too. A lot of people take their dogs flying. I was announcing my approach to the airport one day on the radio and one of my clients recognized my voice. He had two of my patients in his plane with him.

—Christine Ortner, DVM, DABVP
Cascade Summit Animal Hospital; West Linn, Ore.