A Q-and-A with Our 2013 Tweet Coleman Aviation Scholarship Recipient, Sarah Hudgins

How has your career progressed since you received the aviation scholarship?

I was awarded the AAUW Aviation Scholarship to earn my Commercial license in 2013. The commercial license is required to receive any compensation as a pilot. I passed my commercial check ride in November 2014 and got a lucky break a week later. A friend called to ask if I wanted to be his co-pilot ferrying a Cessna Caravan C208EX from the mainland to Hawai’i. The single-engine, turboprop flight California to Honolulu took 14.5 hours. Turned out that we were delivering the plane for Mokulele. I applied there and gently persisted until I finally spoke to HR from my brother’s basement on Christmas Eve. I started as a First Officer with Mokulele in February 2015 based in Kahului for the first two months then got back home to HNL. After about a year I went through upgrade training and flew for them as Captain another year. I’d already been flying around the islands for years, but now I was being paid for it! It was a wonderful job, but the time came to make a jump to bigger aircraft. After the process of interviewing and training, I began flying for Envoy, owned by American Airlines, in the 65-seat CRJ-700 made by Bombardier based at O’hare. I just recently completed the training to upgrade on the same jet and am now Captain Hudgins once again. The Aviation scholarship was the catalyst to all this progress. It was key in keeping me moving forward, staying motivated and removing some of the financial burden that comes with advancing in this industry.

Have you seen more women pilots since you began your career?

This is a tricky question to answer. I SEE more women pilots. But, overall, there aren’t any more women pilots relative to male pilots. According to the FAA Airman statistics, the number of women pilots , including student pilots, has remained between six to seven percent for the past 20 years. This includes student pilots, recreational pilots and sport pilots as well as professional pilots. The good news is that among the women who do hold a certificate, more of them are becoming professional pilots. The percentages of women who hold their Air Transport License (ATP), required to fly for an airline, has seen a steady increase over the last ten years. This tells us that of women who hold a license, more of them are choosing to pursue flying as a career rather than a hobby. And they are going for the top rungs of the ladder. So I’m seeing more women on the message boards and Facebook groups who are interested in wearing the airline uniform and taking leadership positions.

What would you tell any girl or woman in college who’s thinking about getting into the aviation industry?

First, it is essential to connect and build a network of other women pilots. Support will surprise you at times, other times you will find the need to share an experience with someone else who understands your path in a male dominate industry. Find your people and hold them close. Second, you will encounter inequity. It will come at you subtly and blatantly. Consider how to respond, what to let slide, and when to speak up. This is a small world and a conservative industry. Always be professional and keep on your path regardless of what hurdles others may try to put in your way. Finally, this is a rewarding and challenging path in so many ways. Be persistent. There will be bumps in the road. There will also be clear skies and perfect landings. Keep at it. Enjoy the view, and work hard, and celebrate your accomplishments. You can do it!