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The BettyFlies Foundation awards aviation scholarships to aspiring young pilots

Three local students earn $12,000 each for flight training

Suzanne Pfister (second from right), founder and president of The BettyFlies Foundation, poses for a photo with aviation scholarship recipients Oliver Kelly (left), Jonathan Haberern and Anicka Ashcraft.
Emily Whipple/Courtesy photo

Anicka Ashcraft grew up going to aviation fairs, listening to her dad share lessons he learned in the pilot’s seat and tuning in to her family’s tales about Betty Haas Pfister, the legendary local aviator who helped shape the landscape of flight in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“I used to hear all these stories about Betty and how she talked about flying,” said Ashcraft, a 16-year-old aspiring pilot and rising junior at Aspen High School.

Now, Ashcraft will be a part of that story, in a way. She’s one of three Roaring Fork Valley students — along with fellow aviation enthusiasts 14-year-old Aspen High School freshman Oliver Kelly and 16-year-old Roaring Fork High School junior Jonathan Haberern — who each won a $12,000 scholarship this spring from The BettyFlies Foundation.



The BettyFlies Foundation is dedicated to continuing Haas Pfister’s legacy. The organization “funds aviation-related programs that encourage personal development and create Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education opportunities for Aspen and Roaring Fork Valley’s youth,” according to a news release about the scholarships.

“I’m incredibly grateful that I got it,” Ashcraft said in a phone call Thursday.




The $12,000 award is roughly equivalent to the cost of the required flight training for a private pilot’s license, according to the release; Ashcraft said she can now focus on her pursuit of the license without worrying about working to cover the costs of the endeavor.

About Betty Haas Pfister

Before she died in 2011, Haas Pfister had a decades-long love affair with aviation: She served as a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots group during World War II, organized the Pitkin County Air Rescue, founded the Snowmass Balloon Races and was instrumental in the effort to build a heliport at Aspen Valley Hospital and a control tower at the Aspen airport.

She was married to Art Pfister, an Aspen visionary who helped develop Buttermilk, and had three daughters, Christina, Nancy and Suzanne.

A five-person selection committee chaired by Kim Bracher chose the three awardees from a pool of 12 applicants — no easy feat with a cohort of students like the ones who applied this year, Bracher said.

“Every one of us wanted to give each and every one of the 12 the scholarship, but we only had the money for three this year, so to find three deserving students was very difficult,” Bracher said. “But we feel that we made good choices, really good choices, and that these students will continue on with their flying.”

Selection was based on merit, need and an interest in pursuing aviation as a career. Students throughout the Roaring Fork Valley could apply.

Aschraft said she has her eyes on flying charter planes. Haberern said he’s thinking about either military or civilian flight opportunities and sees his pursuit of a license as a “great first step toward that process;” he’s already 25 hours into his training. Kelly, too, said he’s thinking about becoming a professional pilot and is eager to turn his love for aviation into practice up in the air.

“I don’t think I would have been able to do it without (the scholarship),” Kelly said.

The BettyFlies Foundation funded five scholarships in the 2019-20 school year to students in Aspen School District, then took a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the organization’s president and founder (and Betty’s daughter) Suzanne Pfister. The organization has also funded grants for the Basalt High School Aerospace Club.

“This is how we support my mother’s legacy, I believe. … You never know what can happen if you have the dream, and my mother had a dream,” Pfister said.

The relaunch scholarship initiative happened in just a couple of months, Pfister said. She gave the credit to the “stellar” selection committee who helped with takeoff first in 2019 and then again in 2022. She also gave kudos to “assistant extraordinaire” Emily Whipple for her role getting the wheels off the ground and to Garrett Seddon, the aviation director and instructor of aeronautics at Aspen School District, for helping to coordinate outreach to students.

With the scholarship up and running again — now with a partnership with the Aspen Community Foundation — Pfister said she hopes to continue offering scholarships in the future and to offer “at least two or three more scholarships next year.” People can donate at bettyflies.org/inflight.

“We want this (legacy) to live on forever,” Pfister said.

kwilliams@aspentimes.com

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