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58-year-old retired Air Force pilot returns to the cockpit after raising 4 kids: 'Never too late'

'If there's a dream out there... don't be afraid to try and take that first step. Just give it a shot,' the mother-of-four said.

58-year-old retired Air Force pilot returns to the cockpit after raising 4 kids: 'Never too late'
Cover Image Source: Facebook/Southwest Airlines

A trailblazing Air Force pilot has made a triumphant return to the cockpit after a 24-year hiatus. Tamaron Nicklas graduated Air Force Academy in 1986 as a member of the seventh class ever allowing women to enlist, reports The Epoch Times. She worked as an Air Force pilot for more than seven years and went on to become a T38 instructor before quitting her career to raise her four children. "I walked away and thought I was done," Nicklas told KXAS-TV. However, more than two decades later, a story about a former classmate inspired her to rethink her future.


Nicklas heard of a woman from an earlier graduating class at the Air Force Academy who had returned to flying after a long hiatus and wondered whether she might also pursue this path now that her youngest child had left for college. "It's never too late," Tamaron said, recalling a serendipitous experience. "Actually... I opened a dark chocolate bar, and on the inside, the wrapper said, 'You're never too old and it's never too late.' It really inspired me... I felt like God was talking to me through a chocolate bar! My husband was very excited for me. He said, 'You can go fly, you don't have to do it as a job. Just go fly,' but I wanted to have a purpose."


Nicklas visited a local Air Force flight school in Pueblo, Colorado, and shared her background with them. Although she was candid with them about not having flown in a long time, they immediately offered her a job as an instructor. She worked in Pueblo for two years before she and her husband Larry relocated to Dallas to be closer to their daughter who'd started a family. With the move, Nicklas set her sights on commercial airlines and worked for a regional airline for 2 1/2 years to update her skills. "That was really challenging," she said. "Training, new technology; when I had stopped flying 20-plus years prior, we didn't have all the computerized cockpits and the GPS systems. Everything was different, so it was a pretty steep learning curve for me."


Nicklas shared that she was inspired by her father—who was an Air Force pilot for over 30 years—to become a pilot. Years later, she and her husband Larry (who she met at Air Force Academy through a mutual friend) inspired two of their three sons in the same way. They are F16 pilots in the Air Force—as is one of their wives—and were thrilled when their mother made her triumphant return to the cockpit. Nicklas reached her ultimate goal this year when she began flying for Southwest Airlines. "When I got hired it was just so unreal, after all this time when I thought I'd walked away from flying forever," she said. "My husband's an instructor at Southwest, he's check airman so he gets to check rides and checks out new pilots, so we were able to do my first eight flights together. That was a really, really fun experience."


The first officer and mom-of-four is now an inspiration to women across the world. "A couple of women have reached out to me... one woman is in my exact same shoes," she said. "She hasn't flown in 20 years, she was an Air Force pilot... wondering if she could get back into it, and just felt really inspired seeing my story... If there's a dream out there... don't be afraid to try and take that first step. Just give it a shot. Fortunately, it worked out for me, and it can work out for many people."


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