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Commercial and Military Airplane and Helicopter Pilot

Hi, My name is Kathleen but a lot of my friends call me Kat.  Katelyn, my
adorable niece, asked me once “What it is like to ‘drive’ an airplane?” Well, I
have to tell you (and her) that it is kind of like riding your two wheeler bicycle
for the first time without training wheels.  You feel free!  And the first time
you do it alone you are very happy and proud to realize all the wonderful
things you can do.  It’s also kind of like Christmas morning when you get to
rip into all your presents – there is the same sense of excitement and fun.

When I was three years old, I flew as a passenger by myself for the first
time from Puerto Rico to a small town in Colorado.  The flight attendant (or
stewardess, as they were called then) gave me my own set of “pilot wings”
to wear and brought me up to the cockpit to meet the pilots.  I remember
standing in the middle, just behind the center console, looking up at all the
switches… and then looking down at all the gauges and switches that the
pilots use to fly.  There were switches and gauges everywhere!  I wondered
to myself how in the world a person would ever know what to do with all of
those things, much less what they were for.

Later, as I sat in my window seat gazing across the horizon, I was amazed
at the beauty of this world we live in.  I’m sure I was dreaming about angels
jumping from cloud to cloud, kissed by the sun as they leapt, having fun and
feeling free.  I thought it would be wonderful fun to be able to look out at
puffy white clouds every day while at “work” and decided then and there I
wanted to be a pilot some day.

My path to aviation was not the most direct route.  In college I had an Army
ROTC scholarship and during my senior year, I requested to be put in the
Aviation branch. I had heard it was extremely difficult and didn’t have the
highest of hopes that I would be selected, but somehow it happened!  I
became an Army helicopter pilot and went on active duty for about seven
years (flying the
UH-1).  I LOVE flying helicopters, and I LOVE to hover!  
Then I went into the reserves where I became an airplane pilot, also (flying
C-12).  After a total of 13 years with the Army, I transferred to the Air
National Guard and began flying
C-130s.  During the Air Force training, I flew
the “Tweet” (
T-37) and “Jayhawk” (T-1), which are both jets.  Every other
airplane I have flown has propellers.

In the meantime, while I was not on active duty, I took a job as General
Manager in charge of all the airline fuel for the airport in Austin, TX.  I flew
airplanes a lot on the side for fun and built up a lot of flight hours, and then
applied for a job with the commuter airlines.  I was happy and surprised to
get my wish of being an airline pilot and got a job with United Express
Beech 1900s) mostly flying out of Denver.  At the time, flying in the Rocky
Mountains was the most fun I’d had in an airplane.

After 9/11, I was activated to be a part of Operation Noble Eagle (Homeland
Defense operations), then later was sent to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar in
support of
Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (in
Afghanistan).  Even under the worst of circumstances, flying in combat was
a heck of a lot of fun, although very dangerous… you have to pay close
attention to everything you do and everything around you. I flew in combat
and then went home early for a military education program. The next year, I
was sent to El Salvador to work at the US Embassy. Then, I requested some
time off to attend graduate school to study International Affairs.  My focus
was on National Security which is a big term for studying war, peace and
how to keep the people of the United States safe.  After that, I was asked to
go back on active duty with the Air Force Reserves to help with the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and then later retired.  In my “real world” job now, I
work on Aviation Security issues for the Federal Aviation Administration.  

Today, I know that it truly IS possible to understand all those cockpit
switches, gauges, and the mechanics behind them.  I know what the angels
feel like when they dance among the clouds, because I have surfed through
them as if they were waves in the ocean.  I know what it is like to hover, and
I think hovering may be even a more amazing experience than landing.
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Using aviation to entertain
and educate girls about
their limitless
Click here to read
Kat's write-up on
Careers in Aviation.