Cindy Rogers wants to be a fighter pilot so bad she has a cat named Maverick.
Yes, that’s a Top Gun feline and yes that’s how bad she wants it.
Thanks to her courage under fire, Rogers’ dream came true May 30.
It all stemmed from an act of bravery in December 2012 when Rogers was one of several people who tried to save the life of a woman whose jeep plunged into the frigid waters of Wood Lake.
That selfless act made an impact in the community and on her friend Marissa Baecker. To honor Rogers, Baecker made a wish in the #BMO200 fountain to help her friend’s lifelong dream take flight.
The next step was to ensure Rogers remained clueless.
The pair flew to Toronto two weeks ago, to take part in what Rogers thought was a commercial photo shoot for a sports company.
In reality, she would soon be up in one of the Waterloo Warbirds fighter jets.
It wasn’t until they were on the tarmac, that reality set in.
“When I turned to Marissa, she actually had to turn to me and say ‘we’re not actually doing a photo shoot, you’re going flying,’” said Rogers.
She could smell the jet fuel, which was similar to fresh paint.
Rogers suited up and jumped in the cockpit behind the pilot.
“It had full controls, I could touch the landing gears and all that stuff,” she said.
They tightened up her belts before clearing for takeoff.
“You can feel it through your whole core, as the engines rev up, all that rattling,” she said. “The seat belts were pretty tight to start off with, but as you start down the runway they become loose because you’re pushed against the back of your seat.”
The pilot took her on a Top Gun-esque fly-by, doing about 450 km/hr over the runway. “The engines were roaring as he was just flying by,” she said.
The pilot took her for a full 360-degree roll and asked if she’d like to do it again.
She replied “Hell yea!”
She could feel the G-force tugging at her as she flew through the air, having no fear, only excitement.
“I get choked up talking about this stuff because it was just incredible,” she said. “It was like a complete roller-coaster ride.”
Rogers also got the chance to fly the plane.
Her father was in the aviation industry and at 10-years-old she decided she wanted to be a fighter pilot.
Immigrating from South Africa, the Canadian military doesn’t recognize her schooling from the country, so she’s been unable to obtain her pilot’s license.
“If I was given the opportunity right now, I’d join the military in a heart beat,” she said.
Baecker nominated her friend because of who she is.
“She’s just awesome. She just does so much for everyone else, you know? It was about time that someone did something for Cindy,” said Baecker.
“And she hasn’t stopped smiling since.”