DENVER — Darting into gusting winds, rain and hail, Laura Peters rushed to a waiting airplane.
Almost miraculously, her pilot’s hat stayed atop her head as she crossed the tarmac and quickly ascended a narrow flight of stairs to take a seat in the cockpit.
Peters nearly had to shout above the roar of propellers and engines of nearby planes to greet her rain-soaked passengers as they boarded the smallest commercial plane at Denver International Airport.
That Wednesday night flight to Grand Junction wasn’t an ordinary one for Peters, but not because of the stormy weather that brought golf ball-sized hail to Denver.
Rather, in seat 1-A sat a 13-year-old girl, documenting Peters’ every move.
“She has such a passion for flying, and it’s rubbed off on me,” Christina Iatridis said.
Peters, 35, has been Iatridis’ flight instructor and mentor for about a year. Iatridis took the flight to learn what it’s like to be a commercial pilot.
“She is such a positive role model for me,” Iatridis said. “She is so supportive. She’s an inspiration.”
It wasn’t long ago that Peters, who lives in Lyons, was the student, working to break into the male-dominated profession of aviation.
At 30, Peters changed the course of her life when she decided to follow her dream and become a pilot.
For her, the desire for a career in aviation was sparked at the age of 9, when her family took a trip to Disneyland.
“I thought, ‘This is fantastic,’” she remembered thinking of the flight to California. “That’s when I decided I was going to be a flight attendant when I grew up.”
But after graduating from Niwot High School, Peters worked as a mortgage processor, a caregiver for the elderly and a firefighter. She also trained to become a fire investigator.
“I thought about making firefighting a career,” she said.
But that changed five years ago when Peters was waiting for a flight in a DIA concourse. She peered out the window and saw a small figure sitting in the cockpit of a commercial airplane.
“I said, ‘That’s a woman flying that plane,’” she remembered, noting that seeing the woman made her realize she could be a pilot, too.
So Peters started making calls and enrolled in aviation school a few months later. Soon, her stomach no longer felt the roller-coaster effects when planes took off and landed.
She logged hundreds of hours flying airplanes and working as a flight instructor at Boulder Municipal Airport and at the Greeley/Weld County Airport.
Then last November, she got her first job as a commercial airline pilot with Great Lakes Airlines.
She flies a Beach 1900 turbo prop airliner, shuttling commuters and other passengers to 37 cities.
She said she still gets excited when she thinks about being paid to do what she loves.
Peters said she hopes other women who dream of flying — like Iatridis — won’t consider the goal too lofty.
And, hoping to encourage other aviation enthusiasts to investigate flying as a career, Peters has appeared in a commercial for Aims Community College’s aviation program, which airs on public access channels in Loveland, Greeley and Fort Collins.
“If you have a desire, you can make it happen if you put your mind to it,” she said.
Amanda Arthur can be reached
at 303-684-5215, or by e-mail