Sarah Kate Dockery, a Senior at Cullman High School, recently completed the pilot training course and obtained her pilot license. Sarah Kate was inspired by her Grandfather, Rusty Phillips, at a young age to fly. Rusty started flying in 1976 with the United States Marines. He flew F-4 and F-18’s as a flight instructor at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi, before retiring from the military in 1994. Rusty would then fly DC-10 and MD-11’s worldwide for FedEx for twenty years. But, his love for flying couldn’t stop there. He has over twenty thousand hours in the cockpit. Rusty simply has to be in a plane. So, for the last five years, he has flown for a local company as a cropduster.

Rusty Phillips has two children and six grandchildren. Aviation has been in their family for generations. Rusty’s father, Lieutenant Colonel William Russel Phillips, flew helicopters in the United States Army before tragically dying during combat in Vietnam on February 3rd, 1967. So indeed, someone would show interest in flying out of two children and six grandchildren. Rusty’s day was made when he found out that Sarah Kate wanted to learn to fly. “I love flying and was tickled when I heard she wanted to learn to fly. Kate is the only grandchild the showed interest in flying, and I was just ecstatic.”

Sarah Kate was fourteen years old when she started flying with her Grandfather. At the age of sixteen, Sarah Kate decided to pursue her pilot license training. “I got into aviation through my Grandfather. He has always been a pilot and got me interested and encouraged me to pursue getting my pilot license.” Sarah Kate began the process in May of 2020. It took a little over a year to complete the ground and flight requirements before receiving her license earlier this month.

Flying brings a different perspective to life. “I love learning how things work and learning new things, and flying gives me a different outlook on learning. It’s so freeing to see the world from a higher perspective, you get a birds-eye view of what’s going on in the world, and it’s wonderful,” said Sarah Kate. She went on to say, “I started flying because it was a way to spend more time with my Grandfather and that in itself gives me a reason to continue flying.”

Sarah Kate will graduate from Cullman High School in May of 2022. After that, she doesn’t know what the future holds, but for right now, she plans to pursue a degree in Astronautical Engineering. The sky is the limit for Sarah Kate Dockery. As for Sarah Kate and Rusty, their bond and love for each other will continue to grow from a birds-eye view.

In remembrance of Lieutenant Colonel William Russel Phillips, we thank you for your selfless sacrifice to the United States of America. Major Rusty Phillips, thank you for your service to the United States of America and for inspiring Sarah Kate to follow in the footsteps of another aviation generation. Finally, Sarah Kate Dockery, thank you for being an inspiration to your peers. Achieving a dream can be challenging for some to comprehend. However, Sarah Kate has proven that dreams can become a reality.