A SkyWest Airlines flight made aviation history in September 2019 when it became the first-ever commercial flight to be piloted by a mother and daughter pairing.
Although Captain Suzy Garrett and her daughter Donna actually made the trip over a year ago, in recent weeks, their story has unexpectedly gone viral again, with photographs of the duo together smiling from the cockpit spreading across social media, reports CNN.
Donna Garrett grew up in the greater Los Angeles area. Both her parents were pilots, and it just seemed like the normal thing to do.
“It was the boring job that my parents did when they went to work,” Donna, now 26, said.
The reality was that her mom, Suzy, was in fact a true trailblazer as one of the first female pilots for regional U.S. SkyWest airlines. Her father, Doug, also flew 10 years for SkyWest before moving to American Airlines.
It wasn’t long though before Donna became inspired by her parents’ passion and their freedom to explore the world. She decided to pursue her own career in aviation, eventually ending up by her mother’s side in the cockpit for that historic flight.
“We knew it was really special,” says Suzy, who celebrated 30 years at SkyWest when the duo paired up.
She remembers “everybody else’s reaction” as being one of the most heartwarming parts of the experience.
“I was really surprised—as surprised as now it’s gone viral—but even that day, I haven’t had my picture taken that much since my wedding!” she said. “Passengers taking pictures with us, rampers, flight attendants … That just helped make the day even more special, the support was really wonderful.”
The image of the two sharing a flight in the pilot’s seats certainly captured a happy family moment, but it also symbolized a significant milestone on the tough journey faced by many women pilots. The pair believe that this is one of the key reasons why the story resonated with the world.
Though the profession is still predominantly filled by white males, Suzy says she didn’t face any discrimination in the cockpit, and she felt she had “the same amount of opportunities” as her male counterparts.
Any snide remarks came from those less familiar with the job, and she notes that, “Outside of the profession, I’ve had to win over people.”
Aviation still has its diversity issue, but Suzy says it has been cheering to see attitudes change during the three decades she’s been flying. To think she may have helped inspire young women to enter the industry is also gratifying, she says.
“That’s been really nice, and to know that it’s actually inspired my daughter was the icing on the cake,” she adds.
Donna started flying in college, and joined SkyWest in April 2019.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t realize how much of a pioneer in this field my mom was until pretty recently,” says Donna.
Both women see representation as an important step in encouraging more women to train to become pilots.
“Having younger girls see women up there in the cockpit doing this, it’s those kinds of moments that will inspire women to pursue something that maybe they’d never thought was a possibility for them,” says Donna.
Both Donna and Suzy talk fondly about the time they got to fly together, and they both hope Suzy’s son Mark might also one day join them in the skies. He’s a recently qualified pilot and was set to join SkyWest before the pandemic hit.
“What I think would be really neat is to have Donna be the captain and him be her first officer,” says Suzy. “And maybe I’m sitting in the back as a passenger. I think that would be fun.”
“That would be an absolute dream come true,” adds Donna.
The pandemic has sadly halted the pair’s plans to repeat their flight team experience in 2020. It has had a devastating effect on commercial air travel.
Currently, Suzy remains in Los Angeles, and Donna is in Chicago. Like so many other families, they’ve not been able to spend much time together this year.
Both, however, remain hopeful for the future.
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