“Never interrupt someone doing something that you said couldn’t be done.”

MEET THE FAB 5

JET LINX FEMALE AVIATORS

 

These motivational words from American aviation pioneer and first female pilot Amelia Earhart have been an inspiration to many – especially women aspiring to be a part of the aviation world. In a heavily male-dominated industry, women currently make up less than five percent of pilots in the United States – significantly lower than other professions like physicians, surgeons and lawyers.

In order to boost the number of women in aviation, female leaders in the industry continue to inspire, educate and cultivate aviation programs. They hope to empower and encourage women and young girls to reach for their goals and advance into the aviation career of their dreams. On the following pages, meet our Jet Linx aviatrices and learn what inspired them to pursue a career as a pilot – and their advice to the next generation of women in flight.

TESS MAST

JET LINX INDIANAPOLIS

 

What inspired you to become a pilot?

When I was 16, my family was invited to my dad’s workplace for a family luncheon. At the time, my dad was an A&P mechanic for a well-to-do part 91 operation. There, all the mechanics, pilots, and dispatchers brought their families in for a catered lunch and conversation. My family ended up sharing a table with a female pilot (their only female pilot) and her father. I started chatting with her and found out that she actually taught her father how to fly. I was very impressed with her and I liked what she did for a living. I remember telling her that her job was cool and so different from the norm—the norm being what they typically push at you when you’re a junior in high school, such as nursing, teaching, business, etc. I told her I wish I could do that too. Her response: well if I did it, you can certainly do it. Right then it clicked that I needed to do some research and begin looking at different colleges than what I was already conversation with the pilot that I’m going to do it, and to remember that I called that bet that day.

What is your advice to other women who may be on the fence about pursuing a career in aviation?

My response is why is she hesitant? Is it about money, time, childcare, training options, etc.? Then I have specific workarounds to offer to answer those concerns. There are solutions to all of those hurdles, and there are many other women in the field that can provide those answers. Though female pilots make up around five percent of the total pilot population, there are still thousands of us to offer advice, help, mentoring, teaching, and networking for women interested in aviation.

 

How do you fill your time away from the cockpit?

On my time off, I enjoy my time living in downtown Indianapolis. I meet up with friends at any given place, which often includes breweries as they are easily 10 different stops downtown alone. I also like to unwind by just being still and enjoying Netflix. My hobbies aren’t really that active, but rather just quality time spent with good people. I also plan good mini-vacations out-of-state often, and they’re all varied. My most recent one was to the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta held in Albuquerque each October.

RHONDA BEHM

JET LINX AVIATION

 

What inspired you to become a pilot?

My inspiration was my best friend. I was a divorced mother of three young children working as a supervisor for an office seating manufacturing company and knew I didn’t want to make a career in a factory. At that time my friend had just graduated. We talked often about me going back to college and at some point, I mentioned the most unlikely career path was to be a crop duster and she said, “then just do it!” I didn’t have anyone in my immediate family that finished college with a degree; nor did I personally know anyone in the aviation industry.

The first step was to talk to a counselor at Western Michigan University about the opportunities available. He told me several times that their Aviation Technology program was very technical (maybe implying it would be too hard for me), but I guess I just didn’t get the hint. The university would only give me permission to take classes with no financial aid available, (it had been too many years since I was in school). So, the first year I went to Kellogg Community College to prove my academic ability. I then transferred to the university. I worked, lived on campus with my children, and earned a four-year degree in Aviation Technologies, Cum Laude with the Professional Pilot option.

What is your advice to other women who may be on the fence about pursuing a career in aviation?

I would like all women to realize they can do any job/career that would make them happy. I really feel the first step is to listen to their own inner voice and not be swayed by outside influences. There isn’t a job I’m aware of that is more fun than the one I have now. My advice to anyone interested in aviation is to realize it isn’t an easy career, it will take work, studying, and lots of check rides, but the payoff is a job to enjoy every day.

 

How do you fill your time away from the cockpit?

I have a studio in our barn behind our house where I spend a great deal of my time when I’m not flying for Jet Linx. That’s where I paint. I also quilt and produce stained glass artwork.

KELLY TOWNSEND

JET LINX DENVER

 

What inspired you to become a pilot?

My Douglas County High School Counselor, Yvonne Tricarico-Hartsock, took me to the Aspen Flying Club at Denver Centennial Airport for a Discovery Flight when I was a senior in high school. That’s all it took for me to decide that I wanted to learn how to fly. I hadn’t even considered that as an option until she exposed it to me. She opened my eyes to the fact that women can work to be whatever they want and helped me find the path to get there. She took me to tour the University of North Dakota where I would end up completing my degree and becoming a flight instructor and stage check pilot for UND Aerospace. She inspired me by letting me know that I was just as capable as the next person to learn. I believed the best thing I could do is pursue the goal and never quit and the best thing I could become is a life-long learner. I’ve now flown for Jet Linx for over 10 years in four different aircraft types. Most current is a Falcon 900. I love corporate aviation.

How do you feel about women in aviation?

The doors are wide open for women in aviation. If you want to walk through it, you can. Pursue the goal and don’t quit until you end up where you want to be. You will find that you don’t have to demand respect. Just exercise competence and you’ll earn it like everyone else in aviation. The best crews merge to fill any gaps and understand that we are more alike than different when it comes to getting the job done. The truth is, it’s a profession that demands a certain set of skills. If you have the skills, then what else matters?

I would love for there to be more women in aviation but not for the sake of having more women. Aviation needs more qualified people in general. People who are competent, professional and love what they do enough to pass it on to the next generation. One of my favorite quotes is by helicopter pilot Lt. Amanda Harris of the U.S. Coast Guard. “It’s OK to be girly and a pilot at the same time.”

 

How do you fill your time away from the cockpit?

In my spare time, I love to catch up with family – hike with my husband, Jim, go fishing, kayaking, surfing, all the wonderful outdoorsy stuff Colorado offers.

NANCY VETERE

JET LINX WASHINGTON D.C.

 

What inspired you to become a pilot?

I was always around aviation growing up as my father worked as a configuration analyst for Grumman Aerospace on Long Island. As a young girl, I went on plant tours on family days and a highlight of the year was always the company family picnic where Grumman aircraft streaked overhead. I never really knew though that I could become a pilot. I joined Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) in college and received a scholarship for engineering. Later, I was approached by my instructors asking if I would also be interested in applying for a pilot slot. It was an extraordinary opportunity. When I received some initial flight training while in ROTC, I knew that I was on the right path for me. After graduation, I attended USAF Pilot Training flying T-37 and T-38 trainers. I was then assigned to fly the KC-135 refueling tanker and later in my career, I flew military variants of the Gulfstream III and V aircraft. I made the decision along the way to stay in the USAF for a 20-year career because I absolutely loved what I was doing! Since my retirement from the USAF, I have continued to follow my passion by flying as a pilot for corporate flight operations and now for Jet Linx.

What is your advice to other women who may be on the fence about pursuing a career in aviation?

No matter what path you choose for an aviation career, civilian or military, it’s going to take time, energy, and perseverance. There will be long hours of studying and honing your flying skills. Find a great flight school to get started and seek out mentors who can guide you on your journey. There is a lot of support out there in the way of aviation organizations that can help you through this process. If you are thinking about flying, go for an introductory flight at a local flight school and try it out. Flying demands commitment and excellence, but if you love it, your hard work will be well worth it.

 

How do you fill your time away from the cockpit?

I greatly enjoy exploring our local area in Virginia with my husband, Vince. There are numerous historic sites, farms, wineries and lots of fun things to do. Vince is a general aviation pilot as his hobby, so we share a strong passion for aviation. I enjoy tagging along with him on his flights when I can, and we love to go to air shows and aviation related seminars and events.

KELLY MCDONALD

JET LINX ATLANTA

 

What inspired you to become a pilot?

I remember when I was around six years old, my father was studying for his private pilots license. Once he obtained it, he bought a single engine Beechcraft and we started taking family vacations in it. He progressed to also get his instrument and multi-engine. I would always want to go fly with him. He had projects down in Florida, so we would fly from Georgia to Florida. He would teach me what each instrument did and how it worked. I would be vigilant watching for other aircraft, he was very proud at how fast I could find them. When I turned 16, he had an airline pilot friend who had a little Cessna 150, and I started my first flying lessons in it.

I got my private, then my instrument, then my multi. I just kept going, getting all my CFI ratings and then ATP. I never looked back.

How do you feel about women in aviation?

I love seeing other women in aviation. I’m a member with a few organizations which represent women from the past and the future. I hope one day there will be a better ratio of women/men pilots. I’m always trying to motivate any women who show an interest in aviation.

 

What is your advice to other women who may be on the fence about pursuing a career in aviation?

Today is the best of days to become a pilot, especially for women. The economy is strong and the jobs are out there. Be strong, persistent and professional. I have faced many obstacles to get here but the doors are really opening up now, so now is the time to get serious.

 

How do you fill your time away from the cockpit?

I love to go hiking – especially with my dogs – fly fishing, and taking my Jeep out on the trails. I also enjoy going to ballgames with my family and flying with my friends!

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