American Airlines has appointed 26-year pilot Kathi Durst as chief pilot for American"™s largest pilot base in Dallas/Fort Worth. It makes her the first female chief pilot at the D/FW base in the airline"™s history.
(Clarification, correction: An earlier version said Durst was AA"™s first chief pilot, with the inference that she was the first one at any AA base. In fact, a woman had served as a chief pilot in another AA base, Miami, prior to Durst"™s promotion.)
Durst, 55, is a 1981 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. She was hired at American in July 1988 after seven years in the U.S. Air Force. Here"™s the internal announcement:
Being a trailblazer is nothing new for Capt. Kathi Durst. In 1981 she graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, in only the second class that admitted women. And she also became the first female pilot in a Flight management leadership role in American"™s history when she stepped up to assume the Fleet Captain position for the Boeing 737 fleet.
Now, Kathy has broken new ground "“ as the first female Chief Pilot for American, at DFW. Capt. Jim Dees, Director, Flight, DFW, stated, "Kathi brings strong leadership skills, experience and a high standard of professionalism with her to serve the pilots of DFW."
Kathi spent her seven-year Air Force career flying the Northrop T-38 at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona. In that time, she was an Instructor, Check Section Evaluator, Academic Officer, and the Student Squadron Executive Officer. While in Arizona, she earned a Master"™s in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Kathi was a former Check Airman on the Airbus A300 and Boeing 737 Fleets before taking over the Boeing 737 Fleet Manager role two years ago. She has also has spent a great deal of time mentoring young pilots through the Women in Aviation International group, and is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusiveness at American and in her community. To that end, this year she was a recipient this June of the 6th annual Earl G. Graves Award for Leadership in Diversity.
Keep reading for an article she wrote for American"™s website several years ago:
Fleet captain charted her own course to behind the cockpit.
Flight plan for a fulfilling career
When you grow up traveling the world with a father who serves as an Air Force fighter pilot, flying for a career becomes part of your dreams, and it"™s what I always thought I"™d want to do if I ever had the opportunity.
Now, after 25 years of flying with American, I"™m thankful for the incredible opportunity to see the world from a cockpit and experience high-flying adventures on the ground.
Upon graduating from high school, I entered the U.S. Air Force Academy with the second class that admitted women for what I thought would be a medical career. But, female pilot training became available when I was a junior, and I jumped at the chance to be at the controls. I completed pilot undergraduate training at Williams Air Force Base near Phoenix and graduated in the top 10 percent of my class. This qualified me for fighter pilot training, but it wasn"™t an option for women at the time. So, I went back to being a Northrop T-38 Talon instructor for another six years at Williams, and upon separating from the military, I was blessed to be able to go straight to American Airlines in 1988.
When I started my career at American, the hiring process was very different than what the incoming group of 1,500 pilots will experience over the next five years. For one, computers weren"™t widely available, so my application was submitted through the mail. Then, there was the travel back and forth for interviews, medical checks and simulator training. It took almost a year to go from applicant to pilot. These days, applications are filtered online, everything is computerized and it takes only a few months to join our team.
American was my first choice because the company has always been supportive of diversity and different cultures, and it"™s a company that supports its people. I also had confidence that American would one day grant me the seniority to fly the type of plane I wanted, offer the freedom to choose where I live and allow me to travel the world "“ which is one of my biggest hobbies in addition to flying. As a female pilot, I knew I wouldn"™t be held back in any way. That remains truer than ever, as I"™ve now been in my current position as the Boeing 737 Fleet Captain for a little more than a year.
As an American pilot, I have numerous fond memories and incredible stories to tell. There was the long layover in Rio de Janeiro where I went hang gliding; squeezed in a tour of the Panama Canal during a quick trip to Panama City, Panama; and of course, early in my career when I flew an all-nighter, and despite being so tired, our crew stayed up to visit Disney"™s Epcot Center together…