Photo by Les Stukenberg.
Kristin Gibson’s selection for a “dream” job in Hawaii broadcast on YouTube two weeks ago is a moment the 2016 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate will replay in her memory for years to come.
“I am going to get paid to fly in Hawaii. Now that’s something I never thought I’d say in one sentence,” said the Dayton, Ohio, native who proved a top candidate for a flight instructor training program with Mokulele Airlines headquartered in Kona on the Big Island.
The YouTube video “surprise” offered to Kristin by Mokulele pilot Swayne Martin, who initiated a 10-day YouTube recruitment effort that generated 130 applications and 11 hires, shows a young woman whose dogged, and passionate, perseverance will enable her to soar as an airline pilot.
It also showed a global audience she is an “ugly crier,” Kristin joked, mocking her teary reaction when what she thought was a YouTube interview turned out to be her first job offer. She is scheduled to start in late September.
Embry-Riddle leaders and Kristin’s flight instructors laud her drive as beyond admirable, requiring she slay her share of financial and personal dragons so as to earn her commercial pilot’s license at the same time as finishing her course work for her degree in aeronautical science and meteorology. Kristin did not have family resources to rely upon; she financed her education solely through loans, a few academic scholarships, and by working multiple jobs all four years of college and beyond.
“Kristin is one of our most dedicated flight students and we couldn’t be happier for her,” said Embry-Riddle Chancellor Frank Ayers. ”She is a passionate and committed person who lives, sleeps and breathes aviation, and she is going to be an amazing airline pilot.”
Since graduation, Kristin has worked 60 to 70 hours a week between Embry-Riddle’s flight operations and the Grand Canyon airlines.
She paid interest on her loans throughout her college career so as to be able to better manage her educational debt.
Between tuition, room and board and flight instruction, cost is upwards of $60,000 per year at ERAU.
Still, Kristin feared it would take a few years working night and day to amass the funds she would need to earn enough money so she could become a certified flight instructor. That certification is a must to earn the flight hours — 1,500 — she needs to be a career airline pilot. At this time, Kristin has a commercial license and about 280 hours.
Then she happened upon the YouTube recruitment advertisement, and applied.
Though she thought she had “a shot at it,” she was still caught off guard when what she thought was a Skype interview actually was the kick-off to what she intends to be a long career in the skies.
Her four-year flight instructor Shaun Shephard is delighted that Martin saw in Kristin what he knows to be true. And he doesn’t think her tears are ugly — quite the contrary.
“She’s a great role model to aviation youth,” said Shephard who started with Kristin when she was earning her very first instrumentation certification. “She’s had some hart times, and she’s overcome it all … I’ve seen her go from ‘I can’t do it” to now being a YouTube sensation.”
Another flight instructor, Natalie Fleming, said Kristin has “come a long way.”
As a freshman, Kristin struggled, lacking confidence, but over the years she has matured so that now “so many doors are opening for her,” Fleming said.
“It’s inspiring to see a young lady develop so much perseverance. I’m super proud of you,” Fleming said to Kristin as she stepped out of the cockpit of one of the university’s twin-engine planes.
As part of offering Kristin the opportunity to earn her wings, so to speak, Martin also started a GoFundMe account to help cover Kristin’s expenses as she prepares to move to Hawaii.
He set a goal of $2,500 and already the account has earned $9,500. The extra $7,000 will be put toward a scholarship fund for another deserving pilot-to-be in the future.
Kristin said she is awed with all those who have made it possible for her to enjoy some clear skies.
“She’s a good pilot. I’m so excited for her,” Shephard concluded.