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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Team Pancho Barnes

Friday's Fabulous Flyer(s)

Katja Jourdan and Amanda Suter

Beauty, brains and they fly too! These ladies are not your ordinary run of the mill college students. Times are a changing, and there is no limit for women who fly.

In 2011 we got to meet Katja while she was still in high school, and coordinating a fly-it-forward event. Today she is flight instructing, approaching her senior year in college and flying her second race with the ARC . And her co-pilot Amanda learned to fly in Washington State, she's a pilot, jumps out of planes and is headed for the Navy.

Katja and Amanda will be flying in the ARC beginning June 18, 2013 in Pasco, WA, to Fayettville, AR.

But how did these ladies become interested in the sky? Their stories are unique as they are. 

Katja Jourdan:

"I didn’t become interested in flying until spring break of my sophomore year in high school (2010). While on break, my family and I were staying in Tampa. We went to the MOSI museum and viewed Operation Red Flag: Fighter Pilot in an IMAX dome theater. The film was about Air Force fighter pilots learning to stimulate a war without actually killing each other. It featured plenty of cockpit shots, aerial combat, and midair refueling. Being able to watch the dome setting gave the impression that I was sitting in the cockpit with the pilots—it was love at first sight.

I later talked to my. cousin (a load-master in the AF for C117s) about my new found love. My cousin is also a CFI, so he was thrilled to hear of my new interest. He sent me his old private pilot books/DVDs and words of advice for success. As if I wasn’t lucky enough to catch the aviation bug, I soon found out that my high school offered a two-year private pilot course where you were able to obtain your certificate. It didn’t take me long before I decided to enroll; I couldn’t have been more ecstatic… although, I do remember being hesitant about financials because the course would cost me a mere $600 (I laugh about that now).

I started my junior year and the private pilot course in September of 2010. Two weeks into school I accepted that I was all gung-ho for aviation and that without a doubt it was the career path for me. I realized that I wanted to progress further in the industry quicker, so I chose to graduate high school a year early. My junior year only lasted two weeks, I was now a senior. This decision was probably one of the most difficult of my life because I had to give up so much to succeed.

I quit the field hockey team, I doubled up my schedule to take all of my required classes, I enrolled in night classes, I began working on a 5 month senior project, and I was flying at least three times per week. All of my hard work paid off though. In May of 2011, I watched my senior project unfold as I held a Women in Aviation event at the local airport. On June 20th, 2011 I had finally become a private pilot. June 24th, 2011, I walked across Rondout Valley High School’s graduation stage and accepted a regents diploma with high honors.

While in the midst of completing my senior year, I was looking at colleges. I made a trip down to Florida with my mom early in 2011 to visit Jacksonville University. When I visited Jacksonville University I fell in love with the university. I just had that feeling that it was perfect for me. I confirmed my enrollment and began my studies in August of 2011, majoring in Aviation Management & Flight Operations.

Since then, I’ve earned my Instrument rating, Commercial Multi-Engine certificate, and I’m about to finish up my Commercial Single-Engine add on. I will hopefully be starting CFI shortly! This upcoming Fall semester will be the start of my senior year (yes, graduating early again). I’m the president of our Women in Aviation Chapter, Treasurer of our Alpha Eta Rho Chapter, Historian of our flight team, an active member of Alpha Omicron Alpha, and a Teaching Assistant for the Aviation Department.

I was fortunate enough to be able to race last year as one of the two Jacksonville University teams. I race because of the experience. It’s not very often that you’re able to get 100+ fantastic female pilots together all racing in small aircraft, literally, across the country. As a pilot in training, being able to experience something so grand without a flight instructor is incredible. It really puts your knowledge and skills to the test. How well we apply all of the knowledge we’ve acquired in school is crucial in determining how we compare to the other teams. It’s an honor to be able to represent Jacksonville University again and I look forward to another extraordinary race in June!" ~ Katja.

Amanda Suter:

"I initially began flying by taking two flight lessons in Washington State in order to ensure that I enjoyed flying before I decided to commit to becoming a licensed pilot. Before my initial flights, I had decided to become a skydiver as well. Due to my prior skydiving experiences, I knew I would be happy in the sky, motivating me to strive for my dreams and become a pilot.

Since then, I have accomplished becoming an instrument-rated private pilot and am working on my commercial multi. Also, I have simultaneously worked to stay in the sky the way that initially led me to my passion for flying: I now have obtained my USPA (United States Parachute Association) ‘B’ License and have 145 skydives and 3 base jumps. I have always had a passion for adrenaline and controlling motorized vehicles; for example, I raced dirt bikes and quads growing up. The career and lifestyle aviation offers satisfies all of this for me personally.

I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to be a competitor in the Air Race Classic for many reasons including having an amazing time, satisfying my inner competitive racer (prior dirt bike and quad races), and overall gaining an incomparable aviation experience. I have never raced airplanes before; however, I feel as if this will be a reoccurring theme. I am looking forward to seeing the country and being responsible for a half a million dollar airplane (Cirrus SR20)!

I have been able to accomplish the things I have due to the opportunities the Navy has provided me via an NROTC scholarship. I am eternally grateful for this and plan to serve as a commissioned officer and Navy pilot beginning May 2014."  ~Amanda

Okay... there you have it! Two great women who are doing amazing things. Please join me in wishing them the best of luck to these incredible women in the Air Race Classic.

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 


  1. Cecil Mullins "The African-Bush Pilot"May 17, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    You do great work Karlene!

    1. Ah... thank you. But it's ladies like these that take all the credit. Thank you so much for your comment.

  2. OK, I saw Jacksonville and I am already a fan of this team. Katja has an amazing story and the fact she sacrificed other activities that she loved for our passion shows so much dedication and sets the example of what we have to do to get where we need to be.

    Amanda also has an amazing story. She's doing something I could never do.. and that is to jump out of a plane. She really is setting the example of showing what it really means to fly.

    Both of these young ladies will for sure not only do awesome in the ARC but achieving their pinnacle in the field.

    Good luck to you both!! (and GO JAX!)
    Have a great weekend everyone!

    1. Jeremy, you said it all. Their stories are both awesome, but what I love is that photo of them together. They just have that aura...or attitude about them that speaks volumes. They're going to make it and nobody will stop them. Yes... GO JAX!!!
      Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. Great stories by exceptional young ladies! Geez, I wish I could find our readers a PPL for $600! ;-)

    1. Yes, I'm thinking we all have to laugh about the $600 figure. Amazing. These are two very exceptional young ladies. Thank you so much for the comment!

  4. I would love Cap'n Aux or Karlene to teach me for $600!! Oh - wait - what dream was that?? LOL

    Amazing story of these two ladies - and - I love the team name!! Yes - I'm a fanatic of the movie "The Right Stuff"!! They sure seem to have it for their team!!!

    1. They most definitely have "The Right Stuff!" It's going to be a great race and I'm wishing them the best!

  5. What a great story. Congratulations to you both for all you have accomplished. I love the photography. Katja, the one of you taken from outside your Cessna while in fight is wonderful. Amanda, the two of you about to leap to who-knows-where made my stomach hurt just a little.

    Thank you Karlene for finding and sharing such wonderful stories of success in aviation.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. These two are two of my favorite flyers as they represent so much future! It will be great fun to see where they end up in their lives. I hope they will keep in touch!

  6. Congratulations to the team members on their achievements. Hope to be a pax on one of their airliners some day.

    1. That would be wonderful and something I hope to do one day too. Thank you for your comment!

  7. Great Stories, Thanks.
    When your motivated, the obstacles get smaller! Looks like they squashed 'em to the quantum level.


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