The Sky Is The Limit for My NSV!

March 14, 2016

I had RNY Gastric Bypass weight loss surgery on October 21, 2013. My highest weight was 350, on the day of my surgery, I weighed 280 and my current weight is 196. I've lost a total of 154 pounds and couldn't be happier. My life post-op is amazing. I feel healthy and look younger than I did in high school.

I made the decision to have WLS because I wanted to avoid the negative health associated with obesity. I realized I wasn't getting any younger and serious obesity-related issues would start to catch up with me, especially with my family history.

I was tired of being held back in my life. I felt as though I was a spectator in my own life. Due to the intense feeling of being held back in my life plus being a spectator rather than living my life, I have an amazing new hobby of flying. I'm a pilot!

Going For My Life-Long Dream

I’ve always wanted to be a pilot. My dream was to fly rescue helicopters. When I was in high school, I was told the weight limit for pilots was 220 pounds (which I had been over for quite some time at that point). I gave up pursuing my dream as a career option and became a firefighter, but always kept my eyes in the sky.

After having WLS, when I made it to “onederland” I was feeling unstoppable. I decided it was time to start following some dreams. I was a little nervous. I still see myself as the 350-pound Krystle sometimes. It took me awhile to find a flight instructor and school that had an aircraft I wanted to fly.

I knew the Cessna trainers were pretty small inside, and some had a student weight limits. I wanted to find a school/instructor that had a Piper Cherokee. Once I found one, I signed up for an orientation flight. When I got there, the instructor had to get something out of the plane and when he stepped up on it the whole plane kind of tipped back and all I could think was "oh my God, I’m too big for this, I can’t do this." My commitment to my dream overcame that thought and I continued my dream to be a pilot and fly.

My Journey to be a Pilot

Flight training has been awesome. Being obese my entire life, I was proud to receive my FAA Medical/Student Pilot Certificate. I also decided to get the ground school and FAA knowledge exam out of the way as soon as possible. When I took my FAA Knowledge Exam, I got a 90, and am proud of that. My favorite part of flight training/flying is Unusual Attitudes, and Landings.

I haven’t had any real challenges with flight training. I have two flight instructors and one of them is pretty aggressive with Departure Stalls, so I guess NOT getting sick in the airplane is somewhat of a challenge. Finding the time/money to fly consistently is also somewhat of a challenge. I have a full-time job and a 9-year-old little girl, along with volunteering for the local fire department, Girl Scouts, and my church. Despite the challenges, I am moving forward toward my dream. I’m hoping to take the FAA Checkride (flying with an FAA certified examiner flying, performing maneuvers and demonstrating a high level of skills as a licensed pilot) and my FAA oral exam this summer.

sky is the limit 2

There is a tradition among aviation students that the first time they solo (fly a plane alone) is to cut the tail off the shirt when you land. When I flew my first solo, I expected to be really nervous. My CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) got out of the plane I was so excited! I could have flown for hours, but I had to settle for 3 take offs and landings. He took pretty much the entire back of my shirt because it he liked what it said (“Play hard, Get Dirty”). I'm now one of the very small percentages of women that have ever flown a plane solo.

All of my flying so far as been in New York. I've flown to Ithaca (KITH), Binghamton (KBGM), Cortland (N03), Tri-Cities (CZG), and Green (4N7) which was my first grass strip experience. I currently have 24.6 hours of flight in-air time.

My bariatric team has been an amazing support throughout this journey. I work hard to maintain my weight loss and I’m still working to get under 180 (dressed) so I can fly with LifeNet NY. For the most part, I still follow the nutrition plan my bariatric center gave me, and take my vitamins regularly. I work out daily and post frequent updates to social media using the hashtag #OperationFitForFlight so my friends and family can follow the journey. My dream, and ULTIMATE NSV, is to fly my favorite aircraft, the P51 Mustang, with Lee Lauderback at Stallion 51 in Florida.

The Take-Away From My WLS and My NSV is Bigger Than Flying

For me, learning to fly has always been about more than just flying an airplane. It’s about freedom. It’s about trusting your instincts. It’s about recognizing when you’re in a bad situation and having the confidence to get yourself out. It’s about taking risks and chasing dreams. It’s about living in the moment and letting go of everything else to focus on what’s in front of you. It’s about learning to adapt to the continuously changing environment around you. It’s about facing fears. It’s about pushing the limits and breaking down barriers. It’s about forcing yourself to do things that make you uncomfortable because you know it’s preparing you for the worst case scenario.

My biggest success is realizing nothing is out of reach if I work for it. The possibilities are endless with hard work and determination. I have a “never give up attitude” now and I owe that to my weight loss journey.