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Sometimes it takes muscle, even memory, but it mostly takes skill and desire. Memphis college student Bailey Peden spends most of her days outside, looking to the skies.

According to web statistics, you won’t find many women who are pilots. The percentage numbers are low. One student in Memphis is hoping to increase that by adding her skills to the mix.

“He had a plane and I just went up,” Bailey said.  

Headset in place, seat belt strapped, buttons in gear, Bailey is doing what she loves.

“Every day is something new. Literally like you’re flying to new airports every day and it’s just so calm up there”

With the help of her dad’s friend, Bailey learned to fly in high school. Now, she’s hoping to turn her passion into her paycheck as she learns more about aviation every day.

“When Memphis got the program, I was super excited,” Bailey said.

The University of Memphis introduced its commercial aviation program in august of 2018. They said the program would be uniquely positioned to support the need of our community and address a pilot shortage.

The university also said 42% of active United States pilots will retire over the next decade, leaving thousands of jobs open.

Bailey is hoping to fill one of those jobs, and she is expected to be the first woman to graduate from the new U of M program.

Not only that, but she is one of a select few to receive the 2021 FedEx Purple Runway Aviation scholarship.

A way to gain retention and recruitment of pilots who would like to eventually seek pilot opportunities at FedEx. it feels kind of awesome because we’re the minority so to be a part of that is just really humbling.

Not seeing many students in her program who look like her, Bailey tries to find encouragement through other women in aviation.

Passing that feeling onto those who will come behind her.

We asked her, what do you hope people who see her doing this, would get out of it?

“I hope to inspire a lot of other women to come into the aviation industry and be a part of it because it’s awesome and very fulfilling and it’s fun,” Bailey said. “If you love what you do then you never work a day in your life.”

It’s no surprise, Bailey’s dream job is to fly for FedEx. Her next step in her career is to be a flight instructor after graduation.