Kelsey Yoder: Living Her Childhood Dream

kelsey yoder
When Kelsey Yoder was a little girl, she dreamed of becoming a pilot like her uncles. But without any female pilot role models, Yoder didn’t think she could do it and instead pursued a career as a lawyer.Kelsey Yoder

Ever since she was a little girl, 25-year-old Seattle native Kelsey Yoder dreamed of becoming a pilot. Two of her uncles are pilots, but growing up she never met or saw any female pilots or had any exposure to general aviation. After graduating from high school in 2011, she decided to become a lawyer, like her grandfather. But after completing just one year of Washington State University’s pre-law program, she realized that she wasn’t happy and needed a change.

“I had wanted to be a lawyer for so long that I felt lost trying to decide what to do with my life,” she says. “I knew I always loved being in the sky, but at that time, I thought becoming a pilot was not an option. I had the mindset that you had to be male to become an airline pilot.”

kelsey yoder
Kelsey says her mom led by example and showed her that she could accomplish anything she put her mind to.Kelsey Yoder

Fortunately, with her mother’s encouragement, Yoder decided to fly. “When I was 4 years old, my mom was a single mother with three kids,” she says. “We lived in a trailer park and didn’t have much. As I grew up, I watched my mom work harder than anyone I have ever seen to provide for us. At times she worked more than one job to make sure we never went without. She not only told me that hard work would always pay off, she led by example and showed me that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. When I started flight training, she was there to keep pushing me when I thought I couldn’t do it. When check rides would come up, she would do her best to help me study, even though she didn’t know anything about aviation. Even now, as I am about to go to the airlines, my mom is still encouraging me and pushing me to reach for the stars.”

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Today, Kelsey is a standardization instructor with ATP and will soon begin her career as an airline pilot.Kelsey Yoder

Yoder earned her private pilot certificate and instrument rating at Big Bend Community College but left in August 2015, just a few credit hours shy of earning her bachelor’s degree, to continue her commercial flight training at ATP’s Seattle location. In June 2016, she began working for ATP as a flight instructor and was recently hired by Horizon Air, where she will fly the Q400 (Dash-8) from her home base in Seattle. Yoder participated in Horizon’s tuition-reimbursement program, which helped her afford her training at ATP. With just under 1,500 hours logged to date, including 1,000 hours dual given, her goal is to make captain by the time she’s 27 and get hired by Alaska Airlines by the time she’s 30. One of her uncles is a Boeing 737 captain with Alaska Airlines.

Family is very important to Yoder. When she’s not flying, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their large extended family. “He’s 100 percent behind me,” Yoder says of her husband, who works as an auto mechanic for Mercedes-Benz.

“I can’t pinpoint just one thing I love about flying,” she says. “I love the thrill of taking off and lifting higher and higher into the air. I love the feeling of accomplishment after each flight because I know I did something extraordinary. Watching a student go from start to finish in the program is one of the most rewarding feelings as a flight instructor. You are the one who helped them get to the point where they can start flying for a living.”