Friday, November 15, 2013

Share Your Story: Sarina Houston, Aviation Writer, ERAU Graduate

Welcome to the 28th "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show students the diverse range of experiences/careers available to them in aviation. More details + how to participate can be found via the following: Click Here and Get Involved
From Sarina Houston...

I was 15 or 16 years old and visiting my dad for a summer in Idaho when I took my first flight. At the time he lived on a ranch north of Boise that had a gravel landing strip. He was working on his pilot's license and his instructor flew out to the ranch with a Cessna 172 for a flight.

When my dad woke me up at 6 a.m. unexpectedly one morning for a "plane ride," I rolled my eyes and thought …here we go on another one of dad's 'adventures.' I dragged myself out of bed rather reluctantly, not knowing that that precise moment in time would shape my future.

This is where the value of a really great instructor is often overlooked. I think back on that flight, about how little I knew about airplanes, and about how this one instructor had the power to influence my feelings toward aviation in one way or another.  He could've been annoyed that I wanted to tag along. He could've made me observe from the back seat. But he didn't. Instead, he handed me the controls and let me fly. That day, he made me believe I could fly an airplane.

When I got back home to Michigan, I went to the local airport on a whim and asked for a job. Days later, I was working at the local FBO answering phones, washing planes and managing aircraft logbooks. Every two weeks, I handed over my paycheck in exchange for flight time...

To read more of Sarina's "Share Your Story" article, click below. (If you're already on the full article, ignore this)

The following summer I found myself applying for colleges. I had my eye on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University but the cost made me focus my efforts elsewhere. Then, at the last minute, a huge scholarship came through for ERAU and I accepted it.

So in 2001, I moved to Prescott, Arizona to attend ERAU. It was amazing. I was surrounded by aviation gurus. The airplanes were shiny and the weather was gorgeous. I was in heaven.

Things weren't always perfect. I didn't have any financial help from my parents, so for much of my college life I worked two jobs, had a full course load and flew 2-3 times per week. I ate nothing but rice and bananas for an entire semester. I bought a car for $1,000 that would break down every now and then. I was the definition of "starving pilot" in every possible way.  But my persistence worked, and during my last semester I was offered a coveted internship at my favorite airline. It was only the beginning, but I felt like life couldn't get any better.  

ERAU Prescott Introduction Video:

And then it did. I graduated and married my best friend (now an Air Force pilot) and we departed on this crazy thing called life, complete with two children, lots of traveling and the constant hum of airplanes surrounding us.

My current job as an aviation writer came after we had children and moved overseas. I found myself in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country with a baby, and although I looked for jobs, there just wasn't anything for me to do. Staying at home was nice, but I wanted to keep my brain active and keep up with the aviation world, so I got a master's degree and focused on developing a writing portfolio. Since then, my writing business has become almost a full-time gig. Hopefully I'll be back in the airplane again soon - my aviation bucket list is full of things to do, like a CFII, MEI, seaplane rating and glider rating!

I've been able to see and do some pretty cool things in aviation. Highlights include meeting Herb Kelleher, riding in a P-51, flying a border patrol helicopter and a getting to fly on a brand new 737-800 out of Boeing Field.

I've had a lot of great flights, but my favorite flight of all was my CFI check ride.  I had my first job lined up at an FBO, pending successful completion of my CFI, so a lot was riding on that flight. But I knew my stuff and I knew I could teach it. When the exam was over, I wasn't surprised that I'd passed, but I got into my car and cried tears of joy. The CFI check ride is like the Holy Grail of flight training, and I had passed! And I had a job waiting for me. After years of hard work, I had finally made it, and it was a good feeling.

You can find me on Twitter @FlyTrueNorth, at or at


Thanks so much Sarina for writing in and sharing your story. After having just visited Embry-Riddle, Daytona, it's great to be in touch with another graduate! I'm very impressed with how you've managed to combine two of your passions, aviation and writing, into one really great career. When I began flight training, I often read your articles, never knowing that I'd soon know you personally... so cool! 

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin 
Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1 

Some inspiration for all of the pilots out there: 


  1. Thanks for featuring me on your blog, Swayne. I can't wait to see what great things you do in the future!

    1. No problem Sarina! Thanks so much for writing in!

      Appreciate it,

  2. Sarina, What a great story! I did my career backwards from yours. Flying to writing. It's all great and wonderful adventure you have a head of you called life! I hope when I'm flying around the world our paths will cross. Come find me at Flight To Success...

    Swayne, Thanks for another GREAT read!!

  3. Thanks for your comment, Karlene! I would love for our paths to cross one day. I've been following your blog via twitter for some time now and can't wait to see what you do next!


Thanks for your comment; I really appreciate it! Glad you are here with me on the blog. If your comment does not appear right away, it will after verification.

Many Thanks, Happy Flying,
Swayne Martin