Amanda Curless, 29, is a student pilot at ATP’s Daytona Beach, Florida, training center. She completed her first solo on September 25, 2018, and hopes to earn all of her instructor ratings by spring so she can start building the flight time she’ll need to become an airline pilot. “I try to be here as much as possible,” she says. “I treat it like a full-time job. I’ll go in at 6 a.m., and after my flight I’ll study. It’s really hard to study at home, with so many distractions. My husband is a chef, and we both have busy work schedules. He’s super understanding and supportive of my career.”
Amanda grew up inside the boundary of the Buckeye MOA in Ohio, watching fighter jets train overhead. After a visit to the Dayton Air Force Museum, she knew she wanted to learn to fly but kept that dream to herself for many years. “Flying wasn’t something that was really fostered in my family as a job for a woman to do,” she says. “There are still a lot of stereotypes. My parents didn’t want anything bad to happen to me, and I didn’t want to scare them or disappoint them.” But her enthusiasm and hard work won them over, and they are “super proud now! They just worry because they want what is best for my husband and me.”
Amanda earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and poetry from the University of Cincinnati, and self-published two children’s books under the title of Lucy Chicken. In her Amazon author profile, she describes herself as “a lifelong writer and artist” who has “dedicated herself to bringing awareness to Crohn’s disease and other invisible illnesses that affect children and adults alike. Her hope is that Lucy Chicken can teach children to believe in themselves no matter what illness they may endure.”
It’s a very personal message because Amanda lives with Crohn’s disease, a painful gastrointestinal disorder. “It is in remission and under control, thankfully,” Amanda says. “It was a tough part of my life to get through — with my diagnosis and the subsequent miscarriage I suffered in 2015 because of the disease. Lucy was my way of accepting the thought that I cannot have children. I wasn’t incomplete because of this. I decided I wasn’t going to live like I was dead, and take my life by the reins and make the most of it. Thanks to medicine and diet changes, now I’m healthy and working hard every day at ATP.”
She discovered ATP through several pilots she became friends with after college. In early 2018, she took a discovery flight at the Clermont County Airport in a Cessna 172, and was hooked. “It was wintertime and very cold outside but still pretty amazing,” she says. “After that I did some research, and all of my pilot friends suggested I train in Florida because of the weather. I’m glad I made the decision to go to ATP.”
The fast pace and camaraderie she’s developed with her classmates is what Amanda says she enjoys most about her flight-training experience so far. “We’re pretty close and help each other study. We do ground school together and quiz each other. It’s been such a wonderful experience so far. Stressful, but good stress.”
Amanda says her dream job is to be an airline pilot based out of Denver. “I just love Colorado and the mountains. Plus, knowing how to fly in the mountains makes you a better pilot.”
What advice would she give someone who might be interested in getting into aviation? “Jump into it both feet first, and do not let fear stand in your way. Trust in yourself and your potential.” Despite being diagnosed years ago with a potentially devastating illness that is now in remission, she decided to pursue aviation as a career and recently completed her first solo in a Cessna 172.