Anne Esposito

The Sky's the Limit

Before I met Anne Esposito I talked to her on the phone; she was engaging, light and fun. I read a short story she wrote titled "Chicken Fingers and Martinis"; it was a rollicking, wry account of her being bumped off an international, commercial flight her husband was piloting and I laughed out loud. She was a good writer and funny. I couldn't wait to meet her.

Then I read the background material about her professional life in the field of aviation. The short list includes her being: a corporate and charter pilot; the manager of three airports; the president and owner of a consulting and aircraft leasing and management company; and an adjunct professor in the College of Technology at Eastern Michigan University. The material was dense with accolades and achievements. This funny, light-hearted woman was also gutsy and determined. I could have been intimidated. I decided to be intrigued.

I wended my way through Wexford on a bright May morning and met Anne just as she was finishing with Pink photographer Christian Lee. I had a chance to observe. Clearly, I had conjured a mental image of aviatrix Amelia Earhart-or Hilary Swank's portrayal-and was expecting someone a bit tough, wiry and aggressive. Anne was not. She was spirited and youthful and brought to mind one of my favorite quotes: "Once the matter of beauty has been decided, age is irrelevant." Beneath her warmth and ease was something delicate, almost fragile.

After she said good-bye to Christian and made me a cup of coffee from her Keurig machine, we went out on the screened porch to enjoy the gorgeous view of Broad Creek. Our conversation shifted as easily as the light on the water, while the clock stretched from mid-morning to well past noon.

As a young girl her dream was to go to Broadway. She studied voice and piano from the time she was three and entered Ohio State University as an undergraduate when she was 16. "I was an only child, born to older parents who were both geniuses and both psychologists. I was just this ordinary child. My father was aristocratic, very kind and gentle. He looked like Walter Cronkite. My mother was flamboyant, an Auntie Mame character, who was still wearing high heels in her 80s. She was a pioneer in the field of education."

In fact, there is little to suggest that Anne was "just an ordinary child." She was a musical savant, able to hear music and play it by ear before she started her musical studies at age three. She was also a tomboy and says, "I always wanted to be Roy Rogers, never Dale Evans. I thought Dale was a weenie." Anne was never a weenie, but she did have a major fear. She was terrified of flying. Despite scoffing and ridicule from some male detractors, she decided to take flying lessons. In an article for Women in Aviation about the day she completed her student pilot solo flight she wrote: "I had just proved to myself that I wasn't too old or too stupid to learn, but most of all, I had proved that I could beat my fears.Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'Do what you fear to do and the fear will die.'".

She tells me, "I discovered I was a kind of savant about flying. I'm not sure how, but I always knew where I was. A flight instructor once told me to navigate to a very difficult spot. When I located it exactly he asked me how I possibly did it. I couldn't answer. I just knew. Sometimes I would put my hands on the nose of the plane and just know something was wrong. I was always right."

Did she have the same knowingness about her pilot husband Nick who she's been married to for 24 years? She giggles, gushes and calls him gorgeous. She tells me a hilarious story of how they met that starts me giggling. But that is for another day.

I smile across the table at this woman who has also been a fashion director, a talk show host and owned a tony art gallery in London. She shrugs, "Doors opened and I walked through."

We exchange some girl talk about clothes and decorating. Finally, I have to ask, "Do you use Latisse on those eyelashes?""No. That's way too expensive. I get Rapidlash on line." (So, she's unpretentious to boot.)
Before I go, Anne looks out at some point far beyond Hilton Head. Very quietly she says, "9/11 changed everything." I look at this funny, smart, courageous woman. I see something fierce and at the same time delicate, almost fragile in her eyes. I have a knowingness that this is the story only she can write.

Up Close:

Best Nickname: "Mata Hari" because she works "underground" to straighten things out
Most Original Word: "Pea-Willy": a person who is afraid to do something until she's tried it (Anne's self description)
Higher Education: Master's Degree in Aerospace Technology
Woman's Best Friend: Her dog Radar.
Fun Pastime: Cocktails with friend, Patty Crews. (I want to come!)