“In the good old days, you knew things were well made.”
I was told I just had to speak with Dot, and I loved meeting her. She is a kind, thoughtful, strong woman who has made an incredible life for herself. She founded the Midland Aviation Camp and began flying airplanes as a hobby before instruments became digital, before GPS, and has watched her students transition from analogue to tech aviation.
Dorothy “Dot” Hornsby was born August 27, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She’s lived in Cincinnati, San Antonio, Charlotte, Wichita Falls, Casa Blanca, Geneva, Hong Kong, and Midland, Michigan. She married her high school sweetheart and had three boys (two of them twins). Much of their travel was a consequence of his enlistment in the Air Force during their younger years, but some came later in life through working for Dow Chemical. Dot told me that when she was young she decided she wanted to travel and go around the world, which she eventually did. From Hong Kong, she took her youngest son to many of the countries that weren’t accessible by normal travel from the United States. She let him choose two places he wanted to go – climb the Eiffel Tower and see Lenin’s body – and they traveled the Far East with those detours.
When they were in Hong Kong, China was still closed to foreigners. When the borders opened in the late 1970’s, Dot decided to return and enter China, completing a goal she set when she lived nearby.
“Even in high school my goal was to go around the world, which I got to do.”
Dot is a teacher. She taught English in Hong Kong and math in Midland, and continues to teach flight classes today at the Barstow Airport in Midland. She began teaching flight school after her husband died. Really, flying was her way of coping with his death in 1992 only a short while after they retired. In her words:
She told me, partway through our interview, that she wasn’t sure why she chose flying as a coping mechanism for her grief for loosing her husband. My initial thought was that he was in the Air Force – perhaps that would create a closeness to his first occupation. But as she talked about her youth and family, she thought of her father, and told me this anecdote:
Dot struck me as a very strong woman. She did and continues to do so much that was before her time. She supported her husband by teaching while he went through graduate school, traveled independently with her son because she felt it was important and wanted to see the world, got her own Masters Degree in Counseling and Guidance, and chose to go to flight school at a difficult time when most would never have considered it.
Of course, I had to ask her how technology has changed flying. Obviously the GPS has been an influential tool, and I’d assumed that it had influenced her experience with flying, but I was sure to ask her and learned how very much it had changed. In her words:
“What worries me is that kids have the attention span for cartoons on TV, but in the classroom we have to worry.”
I loved hearing about the first television Dot ever saw. How strange it was, this thing in the room.
“I don’t want the future my grand kids are going to have.”
At the end of our interview, Dot really thought hard about what technology has done, its benefits and losses. She considered the phenomenal progress we made, that space travel is able to happen, but also the ‘throw away society’ we’ve become. To wrap up, here are her musings: