Amanda Keck, Crown Point, Ind.
Major: Professional Flight
Air Race Classic ground crew, co-pilot, captain
You have to be able to take control, stay calm and handle any situation. Other people look to you as a leader. I fly planes. What coincides with flying is a ground class. For each rating, you have a class on the ground you have to take: private pilot, instrument, and commercial pilot ground courses. They teach you the rules, regulations, and weather minimums that you need to know. When you are flying, you put the knowledge to use. You have to take some crew resource management classes, because you need to keep an organized cockpit. You need to know how to be a leader as a captain. There are also systems classes, because you need to know how the electrical and fuel systems work. If something goes wrong in the air, there is not an engineer on the flight. You need to recognize the problem, know what’s causing it and how to fix it.
The mother of the kids I babysat for was a pilot for United. She would call me to see if I could babysit, and then say “I’m off to London” or “I’m off to Brazil.” I thought it was the coolest thing that she could travel all over and balance that with a family. I’m really family oriented. I thought, if she can do it, I can do it, too.
Making a difference
Basically, I want to reach out to the girls who are thinking about being pilots. Women are clearly a minority. Out of 45 part-time flight instructors this year, I am the only female. I am also Mexican, so I can reach out to other minorities, too. I want to tell them, “If this is what you want to do, you can do it.” You can find time to balance work and your family life. That message is good for everyone who wants to be a pilot.
The best homework
On my absolute favorite flight, we had lots of clouds. We took off and found a gap in between the clouds. Once we got above them, for miles around, all you could see was the top of the clouds. The sun was rising over the cloud layer, and it was absolutely beautiful. It’s the coolest lab experience that you can have. It’s so relaxing up there. I’d rather have that than a science lab.
Putting in hours
You need a certain number of hours for certain pilot ratings. We do cross-country flights for the purpose of getting hours for ratings and to graduate. We stay within Indiana and the neighboring states. It’s good practice and you become familiar with the airplane.
I was co-pilot of the Purdue Air Race Classic last summer. There were 12 collegiate teams and 57 teams total. Purdue provides the airplane for us, and we’re sponsored by Lockheed Martin, which helps with our hotel, meals, and fuel. It was very exciting but it was tiring at the same time. We had 10 stops in nine states. The sights were amazing. I told Chantal [the captain] that I wished I could take pictures with my eyes, because my camera wasn’t doing the sights justice.