Diane Dollar is changing the landscape of flight. In addition to performing numerous missions as a professional pilot, she has forged initiatives to encourage, inspire and engage a broad spectrum of aspiring pilots, and is currently planting the seed to make this type of mentorship more accessible to all.

Airbus Helicopters: Can you tell us about your current role and where you are based? 
Diane Dollar:I am currently working as a check airman for a large air medical company in Denver, Colorado. I  also fly electronic news gathering (ENG) for Heli Inc. part time.  

Airbus Helicopters: What inspired you to become a pilot and join the aerospace industry? 
Diane Dollar: After high school, I enlisted in the US Coast Guard and served four years as a machinery  technician, boat crew member, surface rescue swimmer, and small boat coxswain. My job was restricted to living and working on boats. However, I fell in love with aviation working search and rescue missions, when we had to utilise air units. I couldn’t help but feel envious of the pilots hovering helicopters overhead. After years of contemplating flight school, which seemed like a far-off dream, I finally made it a reality after my enlistment was over. 

I relocated to Prescott, AZ where I completed my helicopter flight training, and built the first 1000 hours of my flight experience working as a flight instructor. Since then, I have enjoyed an eleven-year career flying tours in the Grand Canyon, VIP charters, organ transplant teams, and helicopter air ambulance. On the fixed wing side of my pilot  journey, I have accomplished obtaining my commercial certificates to fly multi- and single-engine aeroplanes, and I am a flight instructor in single-engine aeroplanes.

Airbus Helicopters: What has been your most memorable flight? 
Diane Dollar: This is a tough one! There are so many, but two come to mind and for very different  reasons. I was flying a tour over the Grand Canyon, and it had been a monsoon weather-ridden day which always made for beautiful weather after they passed over the canyon landscape. I had a six-year-old girl sitting next to me in the cockpit, and she told me that she really wanted to see a rainbow. Judging from the moisture in the air and position of  the sun, I knew one was right around the corner. I told her very assuredly that I would find her one. At that very moment we turned, the brightest full circle double rainbow appeared up and around the canyon. Her excitement shouting “YOU FOUND ONE!” will stick with me forever. 

The second flight that comes to mind was one of my first organ transplant flights. We were transporting the heart of a 21 year-old patient who had passed away. The patient’s family was on top of the parking garage across from the helicopter pad with signs, giving their loved one a final send off. Up until then I never had any personal contact with a donor or recipient’s family, but in that moment lifting from the helicopter pad I really felt the weight of the job and the impact we were having on people’s lives.  

Airbus Helicopters: Any advice or recommendations you’d like to share with young girls aspiring to pursue a career in aviation? 
Diane Dollar: If you dream of becoming a pilot, get after it! It is not an easy path, you will be challenged every step of the way, but nothing worth having ever comes easy. Flying has been the most rewarding and adventurous career for me, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Put safety above all else, and never be afraid to say no. You’re going to be faced with challenging decisions, fueled by both internal and external pressures. If you have to second guess yourself, it is just not worth it. Go where you’re supposed to go, do what you’re supposed to do, and you'll have a long and successful career. Study hard, never stop learning, and be trainable. Join an organisation, find a solid mentor, and have fun building a community around your experience. It is easy to get caught up in the grind while you are building your time, but the journey is everything! Keep your eye on the prize, but don’t forget to look around once in a while and appreciate where you are at in the process. Finally, don’t ever underestimate how far a handshake and a humble attitude goes in this industry. Look forward to seeing y'all out there! Welcome to the coolest club in the world!

Forever on the Fly podcast hosts, Diane and Jose


Airbus Helicopters: Can you tell us more about what encouraged you to build the foundation for Forever on the Fly (a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to inspiring the next  generation of pilots) and the organisation’s aim to encourage girls and  women to pursue a career in aviation? 
Diane Dollar: Over 2020, I began to do a lot of social media posts surrounding my pilot life, and I started  receiving a huge influx of questions and requests for mentorship from people online. As a woman in this industry, our  experience, in my opinion, is very different from that of a male’s experience. Women make up only 5% of the helicopter pilot workforce, and it is extremely important that women feel like they have a community of support. I began mentoring a few young girls over zoom, and that blossomed into the idea that I wanted to do a small STEM class for high school students in LA. That small STEM class turned into a 500-person event where we flew 156 students in helicopters! After the event, I officially established the non-profit in 2021, and began planning the next event, which we held in Ft.Worth, TX where Airbus sponsored two H125 helicopters. It was a huge honour to have Airbus’s support in our mission. We flew 160 students that day!  

Airbus Helicopters: Could you tell us more about the Dare to Dream Aviation Career Days? What’s the best  memory you took away from the last Dare to Dream event?
Diane Dollar: Dare to Dream (D2D) Events are Aviation career days filled with guest career speakers, STEM activities, vendors, food trucks, and most importantly helicopter discovery flights! It is a great way to get the community to come out to the airport for some hands-on experience with  aviation. Our goal here is to implant that core memory in the students, which will hopefully  lead to a future pilot or mechanic! 

The D2D events hold so many good memories for me. I think just simply seeing the faces of  the students getting off of their first helicopter flight are my favourite memories -especially when a parent reaches out following the event saying that their daughter or son has now decided they want to be a pilot when they grow up. It makes me feel like what we are doing is truly making an impact.  

Airbus Helicopters: Any new projects in the works?
Diane Dollar: I have mentioned the importance of mentorship in this industry, which has also led me to build the very first aviation-centric, fully virtual mentorship program. We have an arsenal of pilot mentors from all around the world ready to take on mentees from high school students, adults making career changes, to those going into and getting out of the military. We are building an online community with the help of Mentorcloud - a software company that uses a smart matching algorithm to help mentees get connected with the right mentor. Think of it like a dating app for aviation mentorship! We are set to start training the first cohort on the program beginning in October. It has been a year in the making, and I am really excited to launch and see how this community grows. We are still taking applications for mentors and mentees alike on our website, www.foreveronthefly.com/mentor