I learned to fly a helicopter in the 1990s when I lived on an island … and boats just took too long to get places. I was hooked … my airplane and jet pilot’s licenses followed soon after. Since then I’ve loved my life in the sky so much that I’ve set a course to help more women (who are only 6 percent of the world’s pilots) to secure the resources they need to fly.
My flight plan includes work with two very important aviation nonprofits. I am the Immediate Past President of Whirly Girls International which, for 70 years has supported and promoted women in rotary wing aviation through public awareness events and aviation scholarships.
I am also Chair of the Board of Directors of Angel Flight South Central, headquartered in Dallas, which pairs professional pilots who donate their time, fuel and aircraft to people in need of medical transport at no cost to the patient or family. We are working to increase awareness among patients and healthcare providers of this life-sustaining free service that, through a network of similar nonprofits, is available to anyone, anywhere in the United States. In 2001 I piloted the first ever AFSC helicopter mission. I currently fly a Eurocopter EC135, made by Airbus. But if you call Angel Flight and I’m the pilot assigned, you might get a ride in one of my fixed wing aircraft, which include a Hawker Beechcraft Premier 1A jet, a Cessna 280 Caravan, or maybe even a one-of-a kind L-139 (a Czech Republic-built fighter jet trainer prototype). Okay–maybe not the L-139, unless you need to get somewhere really fast!
You can check out my seven sweet flying machines over at the “Hangar” page (coming soon).
My work with aviation nonprofits feeds my need to help others, but it’s racing that fuels my need for speed. At the annual Air Race Classic, a 2,400-mile all-women transcontinental air race that’s been going on since 1929, my team finished first in 2012 and 2014.
At the 2015 Reno Air Race, the only closed-course air race in the U.S., my team–Darkstar Air Racing –made history as the first all-female-owned-and-piloted aircraft to enter the event. The L-139, with my friend Vicky Benzing at the controls, placed fifth in the championship gold class of jets with speeds under 515 mph.
In 2010 I became the manager of the Calhoun County Airport in Port Lavaca, Texas, near where I live. I opened a Cessna Pilot Center for flight training and, working with the Texas Department of Transportation, secured more than $3.5 million in grants for airport improvements, which resulted in the airport’s being named Texas’s “Most Improved Airport” that year.
I was honored to be named the “Most Dedicated Female Pilot in the World” in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016 by Women of Aviation Worldwide; and honored again in May when Angel Flight West presented me with their 2016 Endeavor Award in recognition of my work in public benefit aviation.
So that’s my story, and I hope you’ll stick to it by following skythrall.com. – Dianna