East Texas Teacher Takes Dream Flight With Air Force Thunderbirds
An East Texas Inspiration
For nearly four decades, Carla Ladner has made a career out of inspiring others through her profession as a teacher. She recently retired after teaching for 37 years. Half of those years were spent teaching at Hudson High School, just west of Lufkin, Texas.
Ladner taught algebra and robotics at Hudson, she was also the tennis coach there. But she always had a love of aviation, and she enjoyed sharing that passion for flying with her students. That eventually led to an aviation program at Hudson High School.
That program continues to grow, and thanks to the nurturing and guidance of Mrs. Ladner, numerous students and graduates are now certified drone pilots and/or have obtained their private pilot's license (my daughter included).
Even though she taught aviation, Carla Ladner had not yet obtained her own private pilot's license. So, she took the steps to change that. The last step of getting certified for that license is something called the 'check ride'. A professional pilot instructor rides shotgun in the plane while grading the student on their flight. It truly is a nerve-racking ordeal for the student.
The day before her check ride, Carla was given some terrible news. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ladner did not cancel the following day's check ride, in fact, she aced it.
Ladner received her private pilot's license, AND she went on to beat breast cancer.
Great Things Happen to Great People
According to a Facebook Post from the Air Force Thunderbirds, a hometown hero (Ladner) was given the thrill of a lifetime. The precision flying team invited her to ride as a passenger while they were performing in Houston at Ellington Air Force Base.
One of Carla’s previous students reached out to us on Instagram back in 2022, stating "Carla is my absolute role model. She started us off with $20 rockets that she had purchased with her own money, and has grown the program into what it is today with 5 flight simulators, 18 certified drone pilots, and 10 students that have either completed and/or begun their Private Pilot’s License.”
If anyone deserved this rare opportunity, it was Carla Ladner.
Thank you Carla for inspiring so many through the years, and thank you to the Air Force Thunderbirds for recognizing this wonderful person who has enriched the lives of numerous persons.
After this past weekend, it may take a while for her feet to touch the ground again.
Carla Ladner Thunderbirds
KICKS 105/Whataburger Teacher of the Day $1,000 Winners
Gallery Credit: Danny Merrell