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Congratulations Outstanding Aviators!

Female

Natalie Kelley

Name
Natalie Kelley
Do you consider yourself (check all that apply):
  • Female
  • Minority
 
Current Employer
Self
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/flyGIRLKelley/
Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/flygirlkelley/
TikTok
https://www.tiktok.com/@flygirlkelley
Why are you an outstanding aviator?
I try to be an outstanding supporter for those in aviation, especially women. There are many obstacles that women face when breaking into the aviation community and I try to help by being a friend, supporter, and guide. My one-woman operations, flyGIRL LLC, and the non-profit 501(c)(3), the Fly Foundation, Inc. has worked hard over the past seven years to offer products for women in aviation, whose sole purpose is to generate funds for flight training scholarships. I'm very proud to say I have raised enough money through sales and private donators to provide just over $30,000 in flight training scholarships to over six women. Each year there are nearly 300 applicants hoping to be the next scholarship winner. I love being able to help one woman and let them know there is someone who believes in them, and their dreams.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to become a pilot?
As a stay-at-home mom to three young men during my flight training, I had to continue to manage the household while going "back to school," after nearly twenty years. It was very difficult for me to go back to learning after being out of a school environment myself AND to keep life as normal as possible for my family. Managing my time and my children's time was very challenging. There were sacrifices made economically, and personally. On top of this shift in our lives, learning was very difficult. As we age, it gets harder to learn. I had to study a lot! That was something I was not prepared for.
How do you contribute to the aviation community and inspire others to join?
My contribution, I hope and believe, is through the flight training scholarship offerings. flyGIRL offers apparel and some accessories, which women love to wear. However, the heart of what I do and love is changing someone life with financial assistance they would not have otherwise. It is the greatest feeling to be able to offer someone help. I keep a close relationship with each scholarship winner and am always available to offer advice, or connect an individual to someone who may be able to help with a particular question or struggle they may encounter.
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Minority

La’Shanda Hawkins

Name
  La'Shanda Hawkins
Gender Pronouns
  She/Her
Do you consider yourself (check all that apply):
 
  • Female
  • Minority
Current Employer
  United States Coast Guard
Facebook
  https://facebook.com/LashandaHawkins
Instagram
  https://instagram.com/prettyrotors
Why are you an outstanding aviator?
  Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity," a quote that resonates deeply with me, perfectly encapsulates my journey as an aviator. I don't consider myself an outstanding aviator due to mere luck, but rather because of my unwavering dedication and deliberate preparation throughout my 18-year career as a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot in the U.S. Coast Guard. This commitment has allowed me to save over 50 lives, including parents, children, and mariners from coast to coast. My distinction as an aviator stem from the deliberate intention with which I've approached my career. I've continuously honed my skills and knowledge, ensuring that I am always ready to seize any opportunity that arises. Serving my country has been a deep-rooted passion and safeguarding our nation's maritime environment from natural disasters and potential threats, while also rescuing lives, has provided the most profound sense of fulfillment in my life. My aviation journey is marked by meticulous preparation, continuous self-improvement, and an unyielding commitment to the safety and well-being of those I have had the privilege to serve.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to become a pilot?
  My journey to becoming a pilot has been marked by remarkable triumph over adversity, and I have faced and conquered numerous obstacles along the way. As a young woman who aged out of the foster care system and lost her mother to suicide, I confronted early-life challenges that demanded unwavering strength and determination to overcome.
In addition to these personal challenges, I've navigated the unique experience of being the "only one" in aviation units and training environments. The constant struggle of wondering if I would ever truly fit in and be fully accepted as an integral part of the team presented its own set of hurdles. However, I've managed to transform these challenges into powerful motivators, igniting my pursuit of excellence in every endeavor I undertake. My story is one of resilience and determination, and it exemplifies my unwavering commitment to overcome obstacles. These experiences have not only molded me into a more resilient and adaptable pilot but have also equipped me with the ability to navigate diversity and inclusion with empathy and understanding.
How do you contribute to the aviation community and inspire others to join?
  Being an outstanding aviator extends beyond excellence in the flight deck; it also entails making a meaningful impact on the communities we serve. I have always been driven by the belief that a life of service is a life well-lived, and I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to inspire others. My mission has been to engage with local communities, particularly marginalized ones, providing exposure to the idea that dreams can be limitless, even for a female helicopter pilot. My commitment to service and community engagement is reflected in my background as a Bonner Scholar at Spelman College. The Bonner Scholar program, awarded to select students based on their history of service, helped shape my dedication to giving back.
Throughout my career on active duty, I have actively participated in nonprofit organizations and served on boards such as Girls Fly!, Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, and Forster Club. I've volunteered from coast to coast, focusing on foster youth and marginalized communities, with the goal of inspiring them to reach for the skies. I've achieved this by visiting schools, participating in air shows, and engaging with local communities, such as in the DMV area.

I am acutely aware of the profound impact that representation can have on aspiring individuals. My own journey as a Coast Guard pilot was transformed when I met another black female Coast Guard pilot who inspired me to exceed my own expectations. This encounter fundamentally changed my life, opening doors that may have otherwise remained closed. Thus, I am passionately committed to paying it forward and inspiring others to reach for the sky. My contributions to the aviation community are rooted in my unwavering dedication to service, mentorship, and community engagement. By actively connecting with underrepresented communities, I aim to broaden horizons and inspire the next generation of aviators, fostering a more diverse and inclusive aviation community.
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LGBTQ+

Savanna Claiborne

Name
Savanna Claiborne
Gender Pronouns
she/her
Do you consider yourself (check all that apply):
  • Female
  • LGBTQ+
 
Current Employer
University of North Dakota
Why are you an outstanding aviator?
I moved from the extremely diverse and accepting Southern California to the majority straight white male city of Grand Forks, North Dakota to pursue my passion for flying. In four years and through the pandemic I have gotten the following ratings and endorsements: Private, Commercial, Multiengine, Instrument, CFI, CFII, complex, and spin. I am currently going through the hiring process at the University of North Dakota to start flight instructing. My goal as a flight instructor is to show other LGBTQ+ and women that even though we are not the majority, we too can make our dreams come true through hard work and dedication.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to become a pilot?
As a pansexual woman in the aviation industry, throughout my training, I feel as though I have been held to a higher standard than my male counterparts. Ever since my instrument training, it has felt like I cannot make a single mistake for fear of failing. I have quite a bit of experience being asked uncomfortable questions regarding my gender and sexuality while in the flight deck. In a place where learning is supposed to take precedence, I often feel judged based on my gender and sexual orientation instead of my skills as a pilot. I do have hope that once I fly for the airlines this discrimination will be less common as I do currently live in North Dakota.
How do you contribute to the aviation community and inspire others to join?
As I stated earlier, I am currently in the hiring process with the University of North Dakota. Working as a flight instructor as a masculine presenting LGBTQ+ woman shows my students, my coworkers, and my bosses that a pansexual woman is capable of achieving everything that a straight man can in the aviation industry. I often post pictures on my Instagram of two aspects of my life: aviation and the gay culture that I have immersed myself in. I have also been an active member of NGPA since 2019 and have recruited quite a few new members throughout my years as well as holding an office position in 2020.
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The 2nd Annual Awards

Sponsored by:

ABOUT

Every day, pilots move our world forward from above.

We all rely on pilots, but they are seldom recognized for the adversity they’ve faced in pursuing their dreams.

Like countless other fields, the aviation industry has struggled to create a more diverse and inclusive culture. It’s hard to believe that in 2024, an incredible 97% of pilots are men, and 85% are white. This has prevented female, minority, and LGBTQ+ pilots from getting the recognition they deserve.

Outstanding Aviators are here to close this massive gap in representation. We spotlight the diverse heroes in the cockpit who fly against the odds and actively encourage others to do the same.

HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Apply online by December 31, 2024.

One applicant in each of the three categories will be selected by our panel in January 2025.

Each award recipient will receive the entire prize package!

ELIGIBILITY

If you’re a female, minority, or LGBTQ+ certified pilot (including student pilots) who has channeled your passion for aviation to make a positive impact in your community, we want to hear from you.

Let’s celebrate your journey and inspire the future generation of aviators!

Apply by 12.31.2024

 Ready to step into the spotlight as an Outstanding Aviator? Apply now, share your story, and become a role model for aspiring pilots.

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Support diversity by sponsoring Outstanding Aviators! Please review this deck and contact:

 

Michael Schneider