22-Year-Old Pilot Proves You Can Achieve Anything You Dream Of If You Work Hard Enough

By: Alex Zyuzikov

Bethany Hernandez does a pre-flight check, gets in her helicopter, exchanges a couple of words with the air traffic control tower (which only they seem to understand) and lifts off. She flies high above traffic, her eyes sparkling with wonder and the huge smile on her face is contagious. She makes it to the skies above San Francisco from the airport in about 15 minutes — a journey that took me over an hour earlier that day by car.

But, it wasn't always like that.

I first learned about Bethany when I was researching helicopter companies to take me up for some landscape photos above San Francisco. Bethany answered, was very helpful and courteous and after doing a bit more research on the types of shots other photographers were getting I stumbled upon her Instagram. The first photo she ever posted immediately jumped out at me. It showed her smiling inside a tiny toy helicopter at a children's play area with a caption that read:

Give me a couple of years to make my dreams come true.
— Bethany's first ever Instagram post

What an amazing story, I thought! To go from that to being a fully licensed pilot and a flight instructor to boot! At that point I couldn't wait to meet her. Being a photographer, my job is to be a storyteller and this was definitely one that needed to be told.

then-now.jpg

After my first flight we interviewed Bethany hoping that by sharing her experiences she would help inspire young women everywhere. Her journey wasn't an easy one by any means especially in what still is a very male-dominated profession Aside from typical difficulties most of us face us young adults she also had to prove that she was better than the stereotypes.

Only about 5% of the world’s pilots are female.
— Gender Gap Grader, 2018

What Bethany did took a lot of hard work, but she kept her chin up and charged up the hill until one day she finally realized how far she’d come. She says that the fact that she was a female did create more than a few uncomfortable situations in the past. Instead of discouraging her it motived her to be better than everybody thought she would be (or could become). It made her stronger and helped her pull through.

I finally earned a bit of respect around here as all of my students these days are guys. It’s pretty cool to swing my hair around every now and then.
— Bethany, on becoming a flight instructor

Now that she's well past her 1,000 hours in the air milestone, the most rewarding thing for her is seeing the results of her hard work from up in the sky and all the people she's met along the way. She doesn't plan on stopping any time soon either and plans to expand on her skills in new and exciting ways (and pick up a few new ones along the way such as riding sports bikes!).

Chase those dreams, Bethany! The sky is NO limit for you!
 

Here is our quick video interview with Bethany:

And here are a few images from the photo-shoot we did to help tell her story:

 Bethany Hernandez: Helicopter Pilot
 Female helicopter pilot silhouette
 Female helicopter pilot getting ready to fly
 Female helicopter pilot
 Woman helicopter pilot at airport
 Female pilot pre-flight check
 Female helicopter pilot
 Bethany Hernandez: female helicopter pilot
 Female helicopter pilot Bethany Hernandez
 Female pilot
 View from inside helicopter
 Bethany Hernandez: Helicopter Pilot
 Female helicopter pilot on motorcycle
 San Francisco aerial view
 Golden Gate Bridge aerial view


Credits:

Creative Director: Alex Zyuzikov
Photographer: Alex Zyuzikov
Video / Cinematography: Alex Kohn of IQvideography
Art Director: Anastasia Baula
Bethany Hernandez on Instagram

Media Requests:

A Few Behind the Scenes Photos: