Lauren Dalzell Settles is no stranger to the aviation scene. She was just a toddler when she flew in an airplane for the first time. Her father, Robert Dalzell, was a pilot for 50 years.
“I’ve always been around aviation,” Settles said. “There’s a picture of me at two, maybe three years old in my dad’s stagger wing. My dad had his pilot’s license since he was in college.”
When her father passed away in 2016, Settles knew what she had to do. To carry on her father’s legacy and fulfill her own desire to take to the skies, she completed her training and became a pilot in August of 2017.
“It was a crazy idea,” Settles said. “Like what if I learn to fly? I got really excited about it, found my passion and completed my training in just a year. I wish he could have seen me. But he knows.”
Two years later, she is making plans to share her passion for aviation with the younger generation. At the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport, Settles noticed that several young children stand at the fence to watch the planes fly off. This gave her the idea of building something that kids and parents can visit to watch the airplanes, instead of just sitting at the fence.
“I am envisioning a fenced-in area, a jungle gym with a slide, toddler items like teeter-totters, all aviation-themed. Not like something you see in a park, but something educational that can help appeal to the love of aviation,” Settles said. “I pitched the idea to Rob Barnett, director of the airport and he got excited about it, too.”
Settles met this week with stakeholders to discuss her ideas. First steps include figuring out the cost and certain dollar amounts for each portion of the project. Sponsors willing to get behind the project can contribute by purchasing one of the specific aviation pieces such as the playground, a piece of equipment or a bench. These sponsors will receive recognition inside the park with their business name on a placard for helping contribute to the local love of aviation.
“Dad loved being around the kids. He’d invite kids to his hangar and let them climb in his plane,” Settles said. “It makes me feel closer to him; I think he would have been excited about it too.”
In addition to a great view of takeoff and landing, the new area would be the perfect spot to include educational information about aviation. Settles is involved with The Ninety-Nines, an International Organization of Women Pilots which is a non-profit organization established in 1929. She has also worked with the Girls in Aviation Day locally to spark interest in this field. Future pilots, mechanics and engineers, Settles believes, can find an available career path they might not have otherwise known about.
“I love seeing kids’ faces when they get to see the airplanes. I can imagine the happiness of them playing at an aviation-themed area,” Settles said. “If I get one girl to become a pilot after this then my mission is complete.”
The viewing area will be open to the public and could eventually lead to school groups visiting the site, receiving a tour of our local airport. Ultimately, Settle hopes to spread her passion for flying with others.
“My favorite part about flying is freedom; if I’m having a bad day I can go up in the air and it clears my mind. Flying makes the world smaller,” Settles said.