With her feet on the ground, Bristol’s Kayla Placido always had her eyes to the sky with dreams of being an airline pilot. Currently a junior at the highly acclaimed Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where she is majoring in Aeronautical Science with a minor in Computer Science, Kayla, who will graduate a semester ahead of schedule, has both her private and commercial pilot licenses, her instrument rating, is fielding job offers, and plans to pursue a Masters in an aeronautics-related field.
It wasn’t enough during her senior year at Mount Hope High School to take AP courses, perform with the award-winning Guitar Ensemble, volunteer with Executive Board, and play two positions on her school’s State Division III Softball Championship team. Over the course of that year, Kayla took flight lessons at TF Green Airport to earn her Private Pilot License before graduating from high school in June 2016.
Kayla credits outings to Quonset Point air shows and her grandfather and mentor Ed Faria, whose photos from his days in the Air Force during Vietnam were displayed alongside model airplanes in her grandparents’ home, for fueling her dream.
Active in her university’s chapter of Women in Aviation, Kayla still loves the game of softball and playing guitar and piano when she can carve out free time.
"One day during a lesson I parked the plane and when we got out my instructor gave me hug and said, “Okay, I want you to do three [solo] take-offs and landings.” I think they purposely don’t tell you in advance when you are doing your solo. Flying is a huge responsibility. The first thing they get into your head is that it’s not fun and games. You have to be diligent all the time. It’s not just about the safety of the people in the plane but also [people] on the ground.
A week after I got my private pilot license, I flew my grandfather and father up to New Hampshire for lunch. My grandfather was fine. My dad was clutching onto everything at first, but he got used to it.
On one flight I couldn’t keep the plane level, [the trim] kept coming up. The other pilot and I were both on the controls trying to keep it straight, but then we couldn’t get it to go down, which made it hard to land. Another time I had an oil leak on takeoff. All our oil pressure went down and the temperatures started rising really high, and when that happens the engine’s moments away from quitting, especially in the Florida heat. We noticed it at 500 feet, so we had to circle around and land.
Not everyone can say they do what they dreamt of doing, so I feel really lucky. I still think about my first flight all the time. It was such a sigh of relief and a feeling of joy. It only made me want to continue and do it more and become even better. It’s my passion."