Kristin Koll, corporate pilot
Kristin Koll's first time in an airplane was her first flight lesson. Despite growing up in the "Air Capital of the World"--Wichita, Kansas--neither Koll nor anyone in her family had learned to fly. But being around so much aviation, Koll said, "I thought flying was going to be fun and something I could make a career of."
After her first lesson at the age of 19, Koll progressed through the certificates and ratings and finished her flight instructor certificate when she was 21. Not wanting to move from Wichita, Koll trained exclusively at a small Part 61 flight school at a local airport, and then started instructing for that school. All this coincided with the events of September 11, 2001, and Koll knew her planned career as a pilot was not within her grasp at that time.
As a result of the economic slowdown, Koll moved to Maryland to work in a nonflying job for an aerial photography company. Then it was back to Wichita working for an accounting firm. Finally, she found a job teaching the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit system for Cessna, which qualified her for a job at FlightSafety International.
Finally the economy started to pick up, and SkyWest Airlines hired Koll to fly the Embraer EMB-120 Brasilia on the West Coast. Koll said she "loved the crews I was flying with" and that they "did a lot of great mountain flying." But she said she couldn't stand the commute. Koll didn't want to move from Wichita, and being based in Fresno, California, meant having to take an additional day on each end of her trips. Perusing job listings one day while she sat in the airport waiting for her next leg, she noticed a flying job in Wichita. She applied and was eventually hired.
Now Koll said she is very satisfied with her position as a Learjet 45 pilot in command for a large, privately held company. "I like the schedule," she said. "It's very flexible." Aside from the short commute and an average of only one or two nights away from home per week, Koll likes the camaraderie among the pilots, and the fact that there is more responsibility placed on the flight crews. "You're more in charge of preflight planning," she said. "You have to determine the fuel load, weight and balance, and make weather decisions."
Koll used the airlines to her advantage. "They are a great stepping stone," she said.
In the future, she may want to upgrade to larger equipment, or settle down and work for FlightSafety again. But for now, Koll said she is having fun flying to all kinds of different destinations. One thing is for certain: "You always have to do what's best for you in this industry."
Associate Editor Ian J. Twombly holds commercial pilot certificates for airplane single-engine and multiengine land and single-engine sea. He is also a CFI.