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Feature: Spreading Her Wings

McKenzie Krutsinger, from rural Sidney, is living her dream of flight.

When we heard McKenzie’s story, we were impressed with the drive and passion of such a young lady. We asked if we could share her story, and the information she sent us was so good, we thought we would let her speak for herself.  The following thoughts came directly from McKenzie:

pilot and plan

I was beyond lucky that I stumbled upon aviation my sophomore year of high school. I am forever thankful for the day I fell in love with flight.

As a sixteen year old at Unity High School, I was supposed to job shadow a career I wanted. Unlike some of my classmates I was unsure of what career field I wanted to go into. On a plane on my way to a softball tournament, my mother turned to me and said how she thought flying would be a really interesting career choice. Her comment  definitely sparked my interest in aviation.

The next week I called the Parkland Institute of Aviation and asked if it would be possible to job shadow at their facility. I had no idea what kind of jobs they had available for me to shadow or what operations they handled. The Chief Pilot, Sybil Phillips, organized everything for me.

In March, I showed up at the Institute not knowing what to expect for the day. Shortly after I arrived, they set me up with a flight instructor who they informed me I would be following for the day. I sat back and watched a lesson the instructor had with a student, then we went on a tour of the air traffic control tower, fire and rescue facility, and FlightStar, a charter based out of Champaign. I even got the chance to sit in the Captain’s seat of Jimmy John’s private jet!

pilot sunset

McKenzie Krutsinger fell in love with flight at the age of 16. Now 20, she already has earned several pilot licenses and is getting ready to participate in the Women’s Air Race Classic, a cross-country event that features all-women teams. Photos are courtesy of Scott Pelkowski.

At the end of the day I went on my very own discovery flight where I got to fly around my hometown. I saw my house and my friends’ houses all from a birds-eye view. The feeling was indescribable. As cliché as it sounds, this was the moment I fell in love with aviation and knew that it was going to be the career I wanted to pursue.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school. I was signed to play softball at Florida Institute of  Technology and earn my degree in Aviation Management with Flight with a minor in Unmanned Aerial Systems.

As a two sport athlete with a GPA of 4.0, I decided to take a dual credit course to earn my Private Pilot’s License. My 18th birthday was the day I received my temporary Private Pilot’s certificate. It was a monumental achievement in my life. I am now almost done with my second semester of sophomore year at Florida Institute of Technology. I recently earned my Commercial Multi-engine license and my Commercial Single Engine license. Now I am working on my Certified Flight Instructors license.

Freshman year I earned a 4.0 GPA, and blew through my flight training. I am currently at the head of my class in flight  training while still earning a 3.9 GPA. Freshman year I received academic honors such as the Dean’s List. I am also an active member in our Women in Aviation Chapter here on campus.

The summer of 2016 I decided to volunteer for the Women’s Air Race Classic. Willard Airport, near my hometown in Illinois, was a stop along the race this year, and I saw it as a  great opportunity to get to know more about the event.

There were fifty-five different teams of women who stopped at Willard. I was lucky enough to get the chance to network and ask the women pilots questions. I even put myself out there and told the pilots that I would be interested in being a co-pilot for a race if any of the pilots needed one.

To my surprise, in January, I received an email from a woman I had met during last year’s race. I grew with excitement while reading her email. She said she would love to race with me this year if I was able to. This year’s air race starts in Fredrick, Maryland and ends in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There are nine different flyby/stopping points along the route.

The race usually costs around $6,000 total, but my teammate and I are splitting the cost. I am looking for donations to fulfill my $3,000 end of the expenses. The money will be going towards expenses such as aviation gas, maintenance, hotels, food, entry fees, etc.

Not many 20 year-olds get a chance to compete doing something they love, or better yet, get the chance to fly all over the United States. Not only is it a great opportunity for me to meet many different women in the aviation field, but also women who could help me later on down the road with my aviation career.

If you’d like to help support McKenzie as she participates in the Women’s Air Race Classic, you can contact her directly by emailing her at mkrutsinger2015@my.fit.edu, or you can send a donation to her at 2197 CR 1100 N, Sidney, IL 61877.