Reaching new heights: Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team selects its first-ever female captain

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By Julee Cobb

Maddie Perry, junior in professional pilot, Wichita, has been selected as the first-ever female captain of the Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team.

The flight team on the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus has a brand-new leader and for the first time in the student organization’s history, it is a woman.

Maddie Perry, Wichita, junior in professional pilot, was selected to serve as team captain at the recent annual officer elections. She is currently the only woman on the Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team, which is comprised of 25 members ranging from freshmen to seniors. Perry also is the first female to earn the title of captain in the group’s more than 20-year existence. As the team’s leader, Perry will be in charge of fundraising, managing community outreach events, such as their youth aviation summer programs, and preparing members for regional and national collegiate competitions.

“It is such an honor to be chosen captain of the flight team by my peers because it demonstrates to me that they respect my ideas and vision for the team and trust that I will be a responsible and motivating leader,” Perry said. “I promise to work hard every day so that I meet their expectations. It also makes me proud to know that I am the first woman ever to be the team’s captain. I hope to use my position to encourage other female students to get involved in flight team as well as be a good example for young girls in the field of aviation.”

Along with adding more women to the flight team roster, Perry would like to see students beyond the aviation program join the organization. She says other collegiate flight teams have members who are engineering and math majors because they can make strong contributions to the competition events that don’t involve flying. She also wants to elevate the team’s connection with other student clubs and organizations on campus as well as with the Salina community, in particularly with youth; increase the team’s industry sponsorship and fundraising; and create an overall welcoming and encouraging environment.

To be considered for flight team captain, students must meet certain qualifications, including being an active part of the team for the past competition year, having participated in the most recent competition and having been to a minimum of one competition. During elections, which also consist of voting on secretary/treasurer, safety officer and student coach, the captain candidates give a presentation to flight team members on their involvement and accomplishments, goals for the organization and why they are best suited for the position. Members then have an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates before casting anonymous ballots.

“I have watched Maddie mentor and tutor other aviation students as well as contribute to the growth of aviation education in our local schools by working with the next generation,” said Benjamin Jaffee, senior assistant chief flight instructor and flight team faculty advisor at Kansas State Polytechnic. “This is why I was excited for her and our members when I learned she had been selected. Maddie is a natural-born leader with an authentic love for aviation, so I know she will do an amazing job leading the flight team.”

In addition to flight team, Perry manages one of the wings of a residence hall on campus as a resident assistant. Currently, she is working on her certified flight instructor rating and plans to graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in professional pilot. Her ultimate career goal is to be an airline pilot, starting at a regional carrier and then moving to a major airline.

Perry’s interest in aviation was inspired by her father, who is a private pilot. She began flying with him in the family’s Cessna 182 Skylane when she was in middle school, first for enjoyment and later learning how to take the controls.

After hearing that she was selected the next captain – and first female captain – of the Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team, Perry said both of her parents were proud and excited, adding that her dad “is on cloud nine.”