Highlighting the Women of Air Wisconsin: Part 1

This month, we’re highlighting women throughout our company on our social media channels and asking them to share advice or insight. The hope is that their words will inspire others, guide the next generation, and offer encouragement to anyone who needs it.

In this two-part series, you’ll hear from women whose careers are more commonly top-of-mind when you think of aviation and hear from women whose careers are not. We’ll highlight that women tend to be in the minority when it comes to many aviation careers such as pilot, mechanic, or aircraft dispatcher. Companies like Air Wisconsin and the organizations mentioned in this blog are trying to change that by educating girls and women on the types of opportunities available.

This series will also help amplify the voices of the women already in those roles at Air Wisconsin Airlines, providing an example and inspiration for anyone who chooses aviation as their career path. Please join us in celebrating and acknowledging the contributions made by these outstanding women.

Photo taken pre-pandemic.

As an A&P Mechanic, Kassidy performs maintenance and repairs various parts of the aircraft including working on the engine. This is a very technical job that requires problem-solving skills, the ability to troubleshoot complex problems, and the right certifications. Kassidy loves her job and plays a hands-on role in keeping our operation safe and on-time. She is one of the few female aircraft mechanics in the United States.

In December 2019, only 2.5% of aircraft mechanics in the US were women, according to the FAA. Out of all of the possible careers in aviation, this one has the smallest percentage of women. Many companies like Air Wisconsin are emphasizing the need for more diversity in the field and raising awareness.

Kassidy hopes more women pursue this rewarding career and reminds us all to find our support system. No one accomplishes anything alone.

“Always gaining knowledge and moving forward is what I love about my career. I have earned my place, but I was not walking alone. The individuals that stood by me and lent a helping hand when I needed it will always have my utmost appreciation and gratitude. Tomorrow is why I love working in this industry. Each day is brand new.”

– Kassidy Wykoff
Photo taken pre-pandemic.

Sonji discovered her passion for aviation by chance. When she graduated from high school, she wanted to become a Registered Nurse. After taking some business classes, Sonji started to lean toward Human Resources Management. But it wasn’t until she was hired as a Ramp Fleet Service Clerk with a mainline carrier that she realized how much she loved the fast-paced aviation industry.

Although she had jobs in other industries after, Sonji still loved aviation and eventually joined our team. Now, Sonji supports our largest crew base and positively impacts the lives of countless people every day. By supporting our crew members, they are better able to take care of our passengers.

Sonji reminds us that the people you work with every day make a world of difference. Find your work family.

“I am very proud of my strong work ethic and my ability to be a team player for the Inflight/Flight team. I am valued. Knowing that my work family appreciates what I do in the office daily motivates me… Follow your dreams, and never compromise your integrity.  Every step that you take in life is not easy, but always remain authentic. Figure out your purpose, and strive to reach it. Nothing happens overnight, so be patient with the process.  Don’t let your attitude determine your altitude. Be accountable for your actions. Don`t judge others, and encourage others who need direction in this journey called life.”  

— Sonji Nicholas
Photo taken pre-pandemic.

Interested in aviation? Take First Officer Trista’s advice and get involved with an aviation-based organization to explore the many different paths available. She suggests Women in Aviation International, which is the largest and most well-known. Other female-led aviation organizations include but are not limited to Sisters of the Skies and the Ninety-Nines.

If you want to fly as a career, you also have numerous options. During her career, Trista was a flight instructor, flew scenic tours, was part of a fire patrol team, flew corporate flights, and currently flies commercial flights for us under the United Express banner. In December 2019, 7.9% of pilots in the United States were women, according to the FAA. That number is slowly growing as more companies like Air Wisconsin and our partner United Airlines commit to encouraging girls and women to explore aviation and other opportunities in STEM.

Your journey is unique. Find the path that works for you and go for it! Trista is proof that childhood dreams come true if you’re willing to work hard and believe in yourself.

“I would highly recommend getting involved in one of the female aviation organizations like Women in Aviation International. These organizations provide several benefits and opportunities to members such as scholarships, networking, and mentoring… I love so many aspects of working in aviation… Being an airline pilot is all I’ve ever wanted to be since I was 8 years old. Every time an airplane would fly overhead, I would look up in amazement. Now whenever I step into the flight deck, I’m still just as amazed that this is my career. Being responsible for 50 passengers in a multi-million dollar aircraft is a huge privilege.”

— First Officer Trista Higgins
Cori pictured with her son.

Behind-the-scenes members of our Maintenance team like Cori make up about 30% of our Maintenance department at Air Wisconsin. As the Program Manager of Aircraft Components, Cori’s job impacts our entire operation. She manages all of the repairable components from our aircraft that are sent to third-party vendors for repair. Additionally, Cori ensures these vendors meet or exceed the standards set by our Maintenance Program. She also works closely with other internal departments to verify inventory levels are sufficient to support the operation.

Like many people, it took Cori some time to discover what she really wanted to do as a career. Inspired by her mother, she kept looking until she found one that fit. Cori teaches us not to settle—find something you’re passionate about.

“I would have never guessed that I’d end up in the aviation industry. I grew up watching my mom’s unwavering passion and dedication to her career and knew I wouldn’t be satisfied until I found an industry I was as passionate about. I changed my career path countless times during college until I found the right fit in aviation, and I haven’t looked back. I strive to emulate her passion and dedication and pass this along to my kids. Whether my kids are 5, 17, or 30, I want them to always look for that ‘perfect fit’ in whatever they do in life.”

– Cori Fuller

Lisa was born to soar in the sky. Like many people who become Flight Attendants, she was never interested in the 9-5 lifestyle. Traveling and meeting new people is exciting and a much better way to spend the day. You also have the chance to build strong, life-long friendships with fellow crew members.

Lisa also enjoys taking care of others, which is why being a Flight Attendant is so rewarding. Not only do you help transport people to important events and fun vacations, but you’re primarily responsible for their safety. Lisa reminds us that there’s a whole world to explore and plenty of opportunities for anyone who doesn’t want to sit at a desk all day.

“I love being a Flight Attendant as I love to travel and love customer service. You are always meeting different people from around the world. Come join the friendly skies with me, and I promise you never want to go back to any other job.”

– Lisa Hopkins

Click HERE to read part two. You’ll learn more about the different career paths available within aviation and meet more of the women who help make Air Wisconsin a leader in the regional airline industry.

Explore all of our career opportunities HERE.

Be sure to follow us on our social media channels!

Virtual Aviation-Themed Tours

We’ve all been searching for fun things to do during the pandemic, especially this winter. If you haven’t checked out virtual tours, it’s time. You can virtually visit The Louvre, The Great Wall, zoos, aquariums, rain forests, and countless places. Forbes put together their list of the 15 best virtual tours HERE. Of course, if your heart is set on aviation and aerospace, look no further.

There are many free aviation virtual tours out there and even some paid ones. Here are some of the free options options we enjoyed.

Photo by Meriç Dağlı on Unsplash taken at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

You can take a virtual tour of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Hover your mouse over the screen, and white arrows will appear on the ground telling you where you can go. You’ll see many different types of aircraft and spacecraft in the hangar.

You can also tour the National Mall Building, but unfortunately, this experience doesn’t include detailed information on the exhibits, and the displays are difficult to read.

It’s also worth noting that the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum frequently hosts events on Facebook and goes live to show off artifacts or discuss various topics.

Naval Aviation Museum

You can “walk the museum” and information icons (i) pull up detailed information on the exhibit and featured items. White arrows show you where you can go as you move throughout the museum.

Photo by Nicholas Vassios on Unsplash at the EAA Museum.

EAA

As you would expect, EAA has many, many virtual tours featuring historic aircraft including a replica of the Wright Brothers 1911 Flyer Model B. You can enjoy the scenic trip through the Eagle Hangar or jump to popular aircraft. Scroll down the landing page to see your options.

National Museum of the United States Air Force

Take a self-guided 360-degree tour of the museum. Blue arrows let you know which directions you can go. You’ll also see suggested areas of the museum across the bottom of the screen, allowing you to jump to a certain section. You can also zoom in and get a better look at displays or read the text. We wish all virtual museum experiences had this capability!

Museum of Flight

Take 360-degree tours of well-known aircraft from the comfort of your home, hotel, or wherever you might be. You can also “walk” inside a NASA Full Fuselage Trainer.

Photo by Simon Fitall on Unsplash.

Cockpit 360 App

Want to check out cockpits? This app is free and worth trying. It’s available on iOS and Android.

Have a favorite virtual aviation-themed tour that isn’t on our list? Add it in the comments. We’d love to hear about it. Happy exploring!

Choosing Your Path to Become a Commercial Pilot

Becoming a commercial pilot is a fun, exciting journey and a long one that will require you to make some decisions fairly early on in the process. Ultimately, your goal is to meet minimum qualifications before you can fly for a commercial airline, but some pilots need more hours and some need less. A handful of factors will determine which path you are on.

Do You Want a Degree?

Whether or not you graduate with a degree from an approved, collegiate-based aviation program, you can be a commercial pilot. Pilots who do not have a degree need to have 1,500 hours total time before flying for a commercial airline and must be at least 23 years old. These requirements are for an unrestricted Airline Pilot Transport (ATP) certificate.

Several factors may allow a pilot to start flying sooner and qualify for a Restricted Airline Pilot Transport certificate (R-ATP). Pilots who have their associate’s degree from an approved program with an aviation major can get their R-ATP with 1,250 hours, and those with their bachelor’s need 1,000 hours total time.

Military pilots qualify for an R-ATP with 750 hours at 21 years old.

What is Your Ultimate Goal?

20% of our pilot workforce will call Air Wisconsin home for the rest of their career. While we do not

require our pilots to have degrees, some U.S. mainline carriers prefer or require pilots to have four year degrees. If you dream of operating large aircraft one day, it’s a good idea to research the requirements for your mainline carrier of choice. It may influence your decision to get or not get a degree.

Air Wisconsin pilots have the opportunity to apply to United’s new pilot career program Aviate. While United prefers a bachelor’s degree, they will and have hired pilots who have other types of experience that they deem comparable.

Learn more about Aviate at unitedaviate.com.

How Do You Want to Build Hours?

Even if you graduate with a four-year degree and after you get your various required ratings, you will likely still have hours left to fly before you can meet minimums. This obviously isn’t a decision you need to make immediately, but as you progress along your journey talk to your instructors and peers to see what you can learn from their experiences.

Some pilots decide to become Certificated Flight Instructors (CFIs) and may even relocate to an area with more favorable weather to fly more and meet minimums faster. Many schools are looking for instructors and often hire students after graduation to come back and teach.

Others may begin flying for a Part 135 carrier. You might be operating a private charter or transporting cargo. There’s a good chance that you will fly in many different types of weather conditions in this role, which is great experience to have.

Since many other countries have lower total time requirements, sometimes pilots will fly overseas and build up the hours they need to work for an airline in the US.

To Sum It Up

No one size fits all path exists for a person who wants to become a commercial pilot. You get to decide which path is right for you based on your career goals.

You can find more detailed information on ATP/R-ATP requirements on the bottom of our Pilot page at www.airwis.com/pilots.

Find a list of FAA approved R-ATP eligible schools on the FAA’s website HERE.

Air Wisconsin Gives Back

Air Wisconsin has roots all over the country thanks to our employees. It’s part of our mission to give back to the communities where our team members live and work through various programs. During the holiday season, our company adopts a family or two every year through the Salvation Army at our headquarters, but it doesn’t stop there. Charitable giving occurs year round.

Gift Matching

We want to help support the causes that matter to our employees. Air Wisconsin will match monetary donations to 501(c) (3) charities. This allows us to positively impact many different causes, both at the national level and ones that are local to our team members.

Teams Giving Back

When people volunteer their time to better their community, everyone wins. Air Wisconsin gives groups of employees the opportunity to spend the work day volunteering instead of in the office, hangar or airplane. Employees who have participated say it’s a rewarding way to spend the day.

Charity Golf Outing

This annual summer event is held near our headquarters to support the local The Boys and Girls Brigade youth center. Employees system-wide are invited to attend if they are able.

Location Initiatives

Our bases often take it upon themselves to put together drives or events that give back to the local communities throughout the year. In Milwaukee, our team held a school supply drive and collected items over the summer for children in lower income areas. Our team in Chicago adopted a stretch of highway near one of our crew hotels, and groups volunteer for clean up duty when the weather is nice. Our management team in Washington Dulles and some wonderful crewmembers worked with United to make a flight extra special for a Make-A-Wish child who was on the way to having her wish come true.

Members of our crew in Milwaukee posing with donated school supplies.

Thank you to all of our employees for helping us make a difference! If you’re interested in learning more about career opportunities available at Air Wisconsin, go to www.airwis.com/careers.

🌴 Honolulu Itinerary 🌴

Aloha! We’re stoked to be heading to Honolulu. Let’s get some grindz on Thursday, November 14 at Tropics Ale House! Dinner is on us for any CFIs or professional pilots who want to learn more about flying for us as United Express and then United through their Aviate program.

You can also catch us at one of these other events or get in touch to see if we can set something up. Email: Enrique.Camblor@airwis.com

Thursday, November 14

Friday, November 15

Saturday, November 16

Our Honolulu Pilot Dinner last fall at Tropics Ale House. Thanks to everyone who came!

We hope to see you soon. Mahalo!

Unicorn No More: Encouraging Women to Fly

Meeting what many in the aviation industry have dubbed “a unicorn,” or a female pilot, makes all the difference to a young girl or woman with aspirations of flight. It marks the moment their dream feels achievable. That is why Air Wisconsin encourages and offers its pilots the opportunity to represent the company at events to help inspire and reassure the next generation.

“It’s okay to dream of doing this,” said Air Wisconsin Captain Avreet Randhawa. “When you get in touch with other women who fly, they’re very supportive.” She added, “I go to all these air shows because I get to meet people, and I love that. It’s always amazing to share what you’ve gone through. We don’t see a lot of female pilots out there.”

Captain Avreet Randhawa with Tim Genc, Director of Pilot Recruitment, and Finn Hudson, Pilot Recruiter.

Without the encouragement of her parents, Avreet admits she probably never would have become a pilot. “I was 10 when I started saying I wanted to fly.” Avreet ended up getting a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field. In her last year at school, her father reminded her of that faded aspiration and motivated her to earn a pilot rating after graduation. It was a wildly different path than anyone in her family had taken. Still, two months after graduation, Avreet was at Phoenix East Aviation flight school halfway around the world, finally learning to fly.

Air Wisconsin First Officer Trista Higgins credits her mom with affirming her desire to take to the skies. “As a kid, I was always fascinated with airplanes and airline travel, but of course, never saw or knew a female pilot. When I was about eight years old, I asked my mom if girls could be pilots too. Without hesitation, she said, ‘Yes!’ From that point on, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.”

As one of the few airlines run by a female CEO, motivating women to explore careers in aviation is a pursuit especially close to Air Wisconsin’s heart. Supporting and sponsoring events like Girls in Aviation Day and the Women in Aviation annual conference are ways the company works toward that goal.

Captain Avreet Randhawa in an Air Wisconsin CRJ-200.

CEO Christine Deister said, “By our words and actions, let’s encourage and mentor our sisters, daughters and other young women by showing them that great aviation careers are accessible and available to them in the same way that we have always taken for granted and assumed that our brothers, sons and young men will pursue those opportunities.”

We all need encouragement from time to time. If you’re interested in a career as a pilot but unsure where to start, reach out to a local flight school and ask about discovery flights. You’ll takeoff in a small plane flown by a Certified Flight Instructor and know within minutes whether or not flying is for you. Next, “make connections and perhaps even find a mentor,” suggests First Officer Trista Higgins. “Do some research and figure out what kind of pilot you want to be. Find the best path for you, then go for it!”

First Officer Trista Higgins looking up at the tail of a CRJ-200.

Anyone interested in an aviation career is always welcome to seek advice from Air Wisconsin. Come see us at any event for resume reviews, interview tips, or just to say hello. You’ll likely meet one of our pilots who has been on the same journey you are on now. They would love to help.

You can also reach out to our recruiting team any time at pilotrecruiting@airwis.com, and explore all of our opportunities at www.airwis.com/careers.

Soaring into the Classroom

Air Wisconsin Gives Professional Pilots a Way to Continue Their Passion Through Teaching

As a child, you dream of becoming a pilot. The prestigious uniform. The cool shades. The cockpit dashboard that makes you feel like you could be Han Solo. Many years of hard work help you to achieve your one goal—becoming a commercial pilot. But, imagine you discover you have a disqualifying condition later in your career or are in a serious car accident that leads to the loss of your First Class Medical. Unfortunately, sometimes pilots find themselves unable to fly.


Air Wisconsin created a full-time position with these people in mind, giving pilots who may not be able to fly the chance to share their love of aviation and pass along their knowledge and experience. Senior Flight Training Instructors mainly teach in simulators in Phoenix (PHX), Cincinnati (CVG) and St. Louis (STL). Jet experience is required along with the ability to obtain any variant of the ATP certificate. A CFI certificate is preferred. Air Wisconsin will teach new instructors how to operate a CRJ-200, the current fleet type, if necessary.

Our simulators in CVG.


This new positon is just one measure Air Wisconsin is taking to improve our Flight Training curriculum. We recently deployed enhanced internet based training to help students stay engaged and supplement their lesson plans while in the classroom. A special focus is also placed on increasing student access to Flight Management System programming with new training software to help guide students through simulator training.


Additionally, Air Wisconsin is committed to attracting the best to join our team as First Officers by offering bonuses up to $57,000, industry-leading benefits and fast upgrades. First Officers can expect to upgrade to Captain in 18-24 months or sooner with previous part 121 experience. Captain qualified pilots are awarded their update during training and start flying for us in the left seat.


Explore all the available opportunities at Air Wisconsin at www.airwis.com/careers.

Air Wisconsin: Now Hiring Direct Entry Captains

Air Wisconsin is excited to give qualified pilots the opportunity to continue their flying career with the airline as a Direct Entry Captain. Pilots with 1,000 hours of previous Part 121 experience transition into a Captain upgrade class after initial training. These pilots will receive $44,000 in bonuses by completion of IOE and will start in the left seat.

Efficiently built schedules and excellent work rules make the most of your time away from home. All pilots have duty rigs (2:1) and trip rigs (4:1) with 12 guaranteed days off a month for reserve and line holders. The company also provides hotel rooms for breaks between flights that are over 4.5 hours.

In addition to Air Wisconsin’s industry-leading health benefits, the company offers an unparalleled 401(k) match program that’s two to three times higher than any other regional carrier. Pilots also can earn up to 35 vacation days per year and have the opportunity to apply to United’s new Aviate program. Learn more about Aviate HERE.  

Apply on Airline Apps or learn more about joining our team at www.airwis.com/pilots.

Questions? Email: pilotrecruiting@airwis.com