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Torgoen Adventurers: Donna Joanne Garrett

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When flying is in your blood!

Pilot Donna Joanne Garrett, a second generation pilot who currently works as a First Officer for a regional airline shares a little bit of insight into how she got into flying, why it's so thrilling and ups and downs of being a professional pilot…

How did you get into aviation?

Both my parents are pilots, so it’s almost like it runs in my blood and was meant to be. However, when I was younger, I actually had no interest in flying and it was never even a thought on my radar, up until I started going up with my dad just for a few lessons here and there in college. I’m not entirely sure what changed, but I caught the bug. Being the one in control and physically flying was so different from being a passenger, and I was hooked from then.

What is your current job?

I currently work for a regional airline as a First Officer, flying CRJs.

Tell us about your most memorable adventure/ flight.

My most memorable flight was when I had the opportunity to fly alongside my mom as her First Officer. We made history as the first mother-daughter flight crew our company has ever had, and it’s hard to put in words how incredible it was to share that moment together.

What is the most important thing to remember when operating an aircraft?

There’s a saying drilled into every pilot: “Aviate, navigate, communicate.” It’s the order of priorities to remember while flying, no matter the circumstances. Keep learning, practicing, and adding skills to your “toolbox” to pull out when things go wrong, but the most important thing to remember is to first and foremost FLY the aircraft. And have fun.

What is your favorite thing about being a pilot?

Aviation truly is a gateway for being able to explore the world, and I love that part of it. I grew up getting to travel with my family, and now love the moments when I get to pack a bag and fly myself into a new airport and experience a new place.

What part of the world have you not yet been to that is on your bucket list?  

I’ve been dying to go to Antarctica. Apart from somehow going to space, it’s kind of like the biggest “challenge” of a destination for me, and I’m looking forward to accomplishing that and crossing one more continent off my bucket list.

What are your 5 essential items when in flight?

My cell phone, a noise-cancelling headset, sunglasses with thin frames to fit under, good company, and my Torgoen watch ;)

What are you reading/ listening to?

I’ve been studying like crazy for my yearly recurrent training at work! If you’re just starting out with a new interest in flying, I’m sorry to tell you the studying and learning never ends! ;)

How is flying as a career different from flying for fun or as a hobby?

Flying professionally includes its restrictive downsides: not always being in control of your schedule, having to fly the company’s way rather than your way, pushing through the delays and early mornings and missed holidays. But I still think it’s the best job in the world! We’ve got the best office views, the opportunity to travel, and no two flights will ever be the same. Plus it financially supports the ability to go fly for your own pleasure on your days off, which I think brings back the joy of flying. Flying as a hobby is one of the most liberating, joyful experiences, and sometimes you need a little reminder of what made you fall in love with aviation in the first place.

What advice would you give to young girls about becoming a pilot?

As a woman, there will be moments that are more difficult, and there will be moments when you have advantages. Most people will be supportive, but don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not capable of being a pilot. Don’t think that you can’t still be girly. Don’t listen to the people who say you only got to where you are because you’re a girl. Keep your cool, keep proving them wrong, and keep a support group of uplifting people and mentors to help you through. 


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