Uncommon Interest Spotlight: Catherine Weiss

Abi Brown A&E Section Editor

Weiss (left) and Flying Nonny (right) in the cockpit together.
Photo courtesy of Catherine Weiss

As a student, you don’t always stop to think of your professors as having hobbies outside of academia. However, when you take the time to pause and ask them about it, their answers may surprise you. For instance, if you were to ask Professor of Fashion Catherine Weiss, she would tell you she spent time learning to fly planes.

Although she couldn’t go all the way with this endeavor, because of cost and its risks while being a mom, she still enjoyed plenty of time in the cockpit. The interest in flying started after hearing stories as a child of her mother’s enlistment in the Royal Air Force during WWII. However, she never learned how until she made her way to Mansfield Municipal Airport. She was there for her son’s flying lessons originally, but it was this larger than life character named Nonny who convinced her to try it for herself.

Nonny (a.k.a the Flying Nonny) would soon become a close friend and flight mentor to Dr. Weiss. Nonny owned her own plane, which allowed practicing for her to be much more accessible. They would fly on a Saturday morning to areas around the coast, that is if Dr. Weiss paid for her breakfast at whatever airport they decided to land at. This gave Weiss plenty of time in the copilot seat of the Piper Dakota.

Weiss continued her flying lessons in Maine during the summer. Her favorite lesson route was one she will never forget. She would fly out of Augusta eastward to the coast of Rockport then south to the mouth of the Kennebec River then back up to Augusta.

When asked about her experience along this coastal route, she said “ I mean, it’s just a different way to look at life. And then you feel like ‘oh my god,’ I am such a small, minuscule thing compared to everything else. I don’t matter compared to this beautiful planet. And it just gives you perspective about yourself in the world.”

After some time practicing, Dr. Weiss, through the suggestion of the Flying Nonny, signed up to help a crew on a cross country race, known as Women’s Air Race Classic Derby, or previously known as the Powder Puff Derby, which was started by Amelia Earhart. This race is dedicated to promoting women flying and piloting.

Dr. Weiss was very proud to be a part of the whole experience, as she commented, “I’m not shy about saying that I’m a feminist… I believe that women can do… anything that a man can. And I think setting examples for younger women is critical in just helping them discover things that they can do that are, you know, outside of stereotypical boundaries.”

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