These days Direct Flight Solutions owner Heather Bay is recognized for overseeing day-to-day operations of the Lebanon Municipal Airport - or as she calls it "the largest welcome center for Wilson County." However, her interest in aviation spans back to childhood.
Bay's memories of aircraft are of flying to visit her dad.
The Birmingham, Alabama, native moved with her family to Wilson County in the late 1970s. Shortly after they settled, her father moved to Florida.
"My brother and I would love to fly in his company plane or jet to get to see him," she said, adding that they were frequently in and out of John Tune Airport in Nashville for many years.
Bay's interest in aviation grew when she gave her husband, Kerry Bay, a special Christmas gift in the mid-nineties.
She purchased flight lessons for her husband. He enjoyed the lessons so much that he pursued his pilot's license. "Kerry's love for flying was the next step to our entire family falling in love with aviation," she said.
Bay and her husband actually knew each other growing up. She said they played softball together and their paths crossed often.
"Life delivered me a point where I was invited to join the old Mt. Juliet Skating Rink and Hermitage Cruising Crew. I heard Kerry Bay was part of that group and I was excited to see him again. Of course, I stopped by Bays Bread on Hartmann Drive in Lebanon to see if he was going. I can remember my outfit and my nerves flipping in my stomach as I walked up to the counter to ask for him," she said. "After a few moments, he walked out with flour all over his clothes and those gorgeous blue eyes. I was hooked."
The couple married six months after their first date. "He is my best friend and we have now been together for 24 years," she said.
They have three sons, who she still affectionately refers to as "my boys" - Richard, 22; Jord'n, 20; and Cordell, 16.
Bay became the sole owner of Direct Flight Solutions LLC by 2012. She explained that the business is the current FBO (fixed-based operation) at the Lebanon Airport.
"Direct Flight Solutions LLC's goal is to meet the true needs of aviation transportation in Middle Tennessee," she said. "We generate revenue by offering maintenance to aircraft, fuel sales, hangar storage and managing the field."
A workday for Bay is filled with demands of the airfield, as well as meeting with prospects attempting to move to the area.
"We are the gateway to this community... This airport affords many small and large business owners the ability to efficiently and effectively conduct business in Wilson County and several other locations in one day. With that, the airport has also experienced increased corporate/general aviation traffic in recent years," she said. "Time is money for many business executives. Many companies are turning to convenience, flexibility and efficiency of corporation aviation and using their own aircraft or charter flights."
In her spare time, Bay enjoys being surrounded by family, friends and water.
"Our farm is on the Cumberland River. I love to fill the bank side with friends and family for any cause. I love to fill the boat full and take the kids and their friends wakeboarding or surfing," she said. "Kerry knows my favorite date is a boat ride from Cedar Creek Yacht Club at night to the dam and back. I am at peace by the water."
Bay also can be found helping those in need through a project or non-profit. "Helping others achieve their dream is my favorite thing. I do not want to ever be the 'up-front' person. Just let me help you get there - wherever your dreams may be headed."
A woman Bay admires is her former teacher Veronica Bender.
"She has been my mentor ever since my Mt. Juliet High School days," she said. "I am grateful many children, along with my boys, have been blessed by her presence in their life at Friendship Christian School. Her example has taught me so much. I admire her desire to be a loving supportive wife, a loving mother, a loving daughter, a loving sister, a child of God, a respected leader, a friend to many and a true blessing to this earth."
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.