17-year-old Sammamish pilot inspires new generation to fly
Some people say that flying runs in one’s blood, and it sure seems true for 17-year-old Sammamish resident Natalie Saslow.
A YouTube video of Saslow’s first solo flight at age 16 went viral, garnering nearly 5 million views.
The junior at Eastlake High School became interested in flying after her first flight with her dad, Stephen, who is a part-time flight instructor. She flew a plane for the first time when she was 13 years old and was immediately hooked.
After three years of classes, studying, tests, and logging flight training hours, she was ready to try flying solo in 2020.
“I remember the moment I lifted off the ground and I was alone. It was just me. Should anything happen, it would be my job to put the plane down safely. All the countless hours studying and preparing lead up to this moment to touch down safely,” said Saslow.
Recalling that flight, Saslow said it was the smoothest landing she had ever achieved. After she got out of the plane, all the bystanders cheered for her. Among them were her parents, who were beaming with pride.
“At that moment I knew I was going to be a pilot,” Saslow said.
For her, flying has helped with the stress of being a teenager amidst the pandemic. The focus required to fly safely helps her to “enjoy the view around with no distractions,” something that not even COVID-19 can ruin. Saslow’s favorite area for flying is above the San Juan Islands.
Saslow said her most challenging flight was her check ride with the FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, who tests amateur pilots and issues pilot certificates.
“I was nervous about the fact that everything I had been working for in the past 3.5 years was all dependent on that single flight,” Saslow said.
Saslow wants to eventually become a commercial pilot. She is also interested in flying in the Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard one day.
She is ready to enter a field that has been dominated by men, maintaining that gender does not determine how well one performs as a pilot.
“Hard work and focus, along with changes in aviation opportunities, open up more avenues for women to succeed in this field,” said Saslow.
She advises other young people interested in flying to “go for it.” Introduction flights, also known as discovery flights, offer a preview of the world of flying. Flight schools often provide these flights for $99.
One benefit of Saslow’s YouTube fame has been the revenue generated on the platform by her video. It has helped fund her flight lessons, allowing her to earn her private pilot certificate on her 17th birthday. Now she can take passengers along for the ride.
In the spring, Saslow plans to get her instrument rating, which will allow her to fly in clouds and marginal weather. She also plans to earn her commercial pilot certificate in the fall, which will pave the path for her to fly larger planes once she graduates from college.