Marine Corps Pilot

My names is Rachel Matthes and I am a Captain in the United States Marine
Corps. I am currently stationed in Jacksonville, NC at Marine Corps Air
Station New River, NC where I fly the MV-22 Osprey.

I was lucky enough to travel a lot when I was younger and my mum worked
for an airline so I managed to make my way into the cockpit of some large
aircraft to see what was going on up there. It was fascinating to say the

No one had ever suggested that I become a pilot when I was younger – a
nurse, sure, but not a pilot.  However, during my last year of high school I
was told by my teacher that my occupational test scores revealed that I
should be an Air Traffic Controller and that put the aviation thought into my

What convinced me to become a pilot was the challenge. Pure and simple. An
opportunity arose for me to become a military pilot and I thought “Wow, why
not? When am I ever going to be given this opportunity again?” So I took
the plunge to see if I had what it takes. And I have never looked back.
People standing in your way is an everyday occurrence with every occupation.
It’s how you decide to handle the challenge that really gets you through…

For me, as a female military aviator, the daily challenges are the most exciting
part of the job. Surrounded by predominantly male aviators, even the
simplest things can become a challenge. Like helmet hair. How come men
look almost refreshed after flying a sortie, where I look like I’ve jumped into a
swimming pool then stood in a wind tunnel for the last hour??? Keeping a
feminine touch is key and can be the most difficult part of the job!!

The biggest lesson I’ve learned during flight training is that boys don’t do
well at multi tasking, an area which women seem to excel (i.e., running a
cockpit – flying, talking, planning ahead, etc). And they absolutely hate that!

I learnt to fly through the military in Pensacola, FL, where I flew the T-34C
Mentor (propeller driven single engine aircraft), and TH-57 Sea Ranger
Helicopter. Once I was winged, I was sent to California to learn to fly the CH-
46E Helicopter. After several years flying the CH-46 I was then transitioned
to fly the MV-22A Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, which I am now flying. I have
another copilot that flies with me and 2 crew chiefs that are in the cabin
behind me. The V22 takes off like a helicopter and then transitions to an
airplane flying at speeds in excess of 300kts.

Flying is my job and I love it. I have been a pilot now for 8 years. I have
flown multiple tours in Iraq and I am currently deployed aboard a US Naval
ship conducting various missions at sea, including humanitarian assistance in
Haiti and anti-piracy off the coast of Africa. I love the type of flying I do as it
is never dull!! No two missions are the same.  Lately we have been
conducting aerial refueling sorties with a C-130 Tanker. That is when we fly
up to a certain altitude and get fuel from a hose that another larger aircraft
drags behind it. That way I can stay airborne a lot longer without landing.
The longest I have been airborne without landing is 10.5 hrs when we flew
from Jacksonville, NC to San Diego CA.

The best part of my job is the people I work with and the missions we do in
support of the war on terror and helping people in their time of need. I also
really enjoy travelling and seeing the world.

Funny story: I am a real girly girl... So on one of my flights to San Diego, we
were flying at 24,000 feet straight and level on automatic pilot with our
oxygen masks on. Knowing that we still had hours left to go before we were
to land, I gave myself a manicure!! The other pilot flying with me couldn’t
believe it, but again, multi tasking at its best, so I thought why not? There’d
be plenty of time for my nails to dry up there…!!

Strange reaction from people. When people meet me I guess I don’t exactly
come across as a Marine pilot.  Keeping the feminine side of me has always
been a priority despite my military occupation. And when people think of
Marine pilots, I’m not exactly the first image that comes to mind! Most
people at squadron functions think I’m one of the wives, not one of the

What role do skills in math, science, engineering and technology play
in supporting your job?
 Flying one of the most modern and controversial
aircraft the military has seen in a while comes with a lot of responsibility.  
Math, science, engineering and understanding technology ultimately come
with the job, however, it would make it so much easier if you studied those
areas earlier on.  The type of flying we do involves a significant amount of
math and technology. My aircraft is a fly-by-wire aircraft meaning that it is
mainly controlled by electrical impulses and computers. So the more you are
at ease with these subjects, the easier it would be for you to understand
just what it is your aircraft is doing when you tell it to fly a certain profile.

What activities do you suggest for young children or young adults to
prepare them for a career like yours?
I would highly suggest a sense of
adventure!! No two aircraft are the same when it comes to flying, and no two
flights will ever be the same either, so buckle up and hang on! Never take no
for an answer and no matter what it is that you ultimately end up doing, be
the best you can, and always remember to have FUN!!
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
Email Rachel!
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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
Landing in Haiti