Motoette -in forward motion

Passion: A powerful, compelling emotion or feeling.

 This is story in tribute to my Aunt, an accomplished pilot, who has taught me what living your dream is all about. And, even though she freely admitted in her acceptance speech, there were sacrifices made, she had the support of her friends and family, sharing in her passion for flight.

It was April 17, 2010, the day my Aunt, Barbara Lee Harper was to be one of 3 accomplished pilots inducted into the Arizona Hall of Fame. I sat at a the banquet table in the Pima Air and Space Museum, in the “Spirit of Freedom Hanger”, literally being surrounded by historical planes and jets from wars gone past, with a 1934 Douglas B- Bolo fighter plane hanging precariously over my head!

As I watched my Aunt visiting with fellow pilots, I thought back to when she first took up flying, and the memory began to resurface.

As I remember so many years ago, it was my Uncle who introduced flying to my Aunt when they first got married. And it was his little two-seater Cessna that she did most of her flying in, a plane they still possess today.

And so the story goes; what started as a hobby, turned to passion, then to a life long career;

After moving to Tucson in the early 70’s, and still in the emerging stages of flying, she took a job as a flight instructor, teaching at the Tucson International Airport.  She became involved in numerous local aviation organizations and became a member of the Civil Air Patrol and served as the Chief Pilot for the Davis-Monthan AFB Aero Club.

Her ultimate challenge was becoming a commercial pilot for Continental Airlines 1989, at the age of 52, where she remained until her mandatory retirement, 9 years later.

Taking her expertise in flying and turning it towards exploring, she began doing aerial surveys, on a part-time basis for various organizations, studying archeological sites.

My Aunt was now discovering a new passion, archeology and incorporating it into her first passion, flight! This motivated her to return to college, which earned her a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and then on to a master’s and doctoral degree in Organizational Management.

Still flying at 72, her passion continues to remain steadfast in her past achievements in aviation.  Currently flying for various private parties and still doing an occasional archeology survey from time to time, the love and commitment persists in taking to the skies, for the passion lives on and seemly, always will.

In relationships, as well as in work and hobbies, passion is the difference in how one person can take mediocre to extraordinary by just their fervent thoughts morphing into actions. We are all looking for those certain mind altering sensations to give us that elevation in our endorphin levels, to raise the experience to the highest level. But, Passion isn’t something you can just turn-on or take a pill and it will emerge.  It has to come from deep within, almost as if it’s ingrained in one’s destiny, a connection with spirit.

Passion was how my Aunt perceived flying, and what it gave to her emotionally and monetarily. Something she epitomized in her distinquished evening.


So, what I thought was to be a nice gesture on my part, making the trek to Arizona to witness my aunt accepting her award graciously on the ceremonial podium, was really an epiphany in what my aunt brought to me by example, which I had never realized before. By simply interjecting passion into life’s experiences can be the difference between existing or welcoming a deeper intuitive, almost child-like fascination with all life has to offer. To answer the underlying question; what is a life without passion?


May 1, 2010 - Posted by | aviation, Barbara Lee Harper, continental airlines, Pima Air and Space Museum, tucson international airport


  1. Cindi,

    Great post … your aunt sounds like an amazing woman … the kind that truly becomes a hero to nieces (and nephews).

    Comment by Rob | May 1, 2010 | Reply

  2. Girl,remind me to never say, ‘Im too old to do this or, Im to old to do that!’ Kudos to your Auntie for being an amazing lady. She is a wonderful example to the younger ladies in the world. You must be extremely proud!!

    Comment by mtajudy | May 4, 2010 | Reply

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