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article number 141
article date 06-12-2012
copyright 2012 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
First Lieutenant Maggie Rudolphi, C-17 Transport Pilot
by Stu Moment

This background on Maggie’s career came from a speech she gave to the 2012 University of Illinois, Institute of Aviation graduating class. She was remarkably candid about her personal growth, not just in terms of aviation knowledge, but in terms of growth in attitudes toward life … from the internal embrace of responsibility for her operations, to her respect and appreciation for colleges and fellow soldiers.

Maggie Rudolphi waited until her mid 20’s to make a great decision … join the Air Force. During her discussion she described the rapid changes in attitudes toward life and people plus her fulfillment of a dream. That fulfillment is not just for her own benefit, but for the resulting pride of serving our nation and enabling our troops to accomplish their tasks.

Maggie was a 2003 Graduate of the University of Illinois, Institute of Aviation. Like many younglings she didn’t want to stick around her hometown. She took a flight instructor job far away in Utah, then found out that you can’t make a living on $200 per month. She came back to the University of Illinois to teach flying.

In 2005 Maggie got a job at Chautauqua Airlines, owned by Republic Airways. Her first job was as First Officer on the Embraer 145 regional jet. Two years later she made Captain on the CRJ-200. In 2009 Maggie upgraded to the Embraer 170/175 series. She settled in Louisville KY, where Chautauqua Airlines has a major facility.

Embraer 145, Bombardier CRJ-200, and Embraer 170. Wikimedia author Ibagli.

While drinking beer with friends in Louisville she had a chance to meet with Joe Morris, a C-17 Commander (as a civilian, he is First Officer on a United Parcel Service MD-11). Maggie was 26 years old. With an age 30 cutoff for military entrance she thought that it may be a bit late in the game to begin a military career. But she cornered Joe and wanted him to be assured that she wanted to pursue a C-17 pilot position. To ensure that it wasn’t the beer talking, Joe said “call in the morning”. Without reservation she called. He told her that she had to be ready to meet in a week.

In June 2011 she completed pilot training in Columbus Mississippi flying the T-6 II and T-1. After a “summer vacation” of combat survival in Washington State she completed C-17 initial qualification. Maggie has now been a full time C-17 co-pilot for about 6 months and has flown missions worldwide for operation “enduring freedom”, presidential/ vice-presidential support missions and other DOD operations.

Raytheon T-1 Jayhawk. Wikimedia author Ibagli
Maggie’s 585,000 pound office: Boeing C-17. U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo.

During her talk to graduating students Maggie touched on a variety of philosophical subjects of interest to all students. She mentioned her dad’s reaction when she told him about the time, as a student, she tried to fake her way through an (old style) Non Directional Beacon, instrument approach. She carries a letter from her dad (which she reads before every check ride) regarding that event. Her dad tells her to be responsible to really learn what is required.

Maggie also talked about how to approach your work. “Decide to do the jobs no one else wants to do. Aviation is glamorous but only those who have worked hard will appreciate the true reward of their career. Be professional … opens communications which aid safety. Each crewmember is an integral part of the decision making process. Every crewmember contributes to the overall professionalism of the flight deck. Decide to have a positive attitude … it’s contagious.”

After her speech I cornered her with a list of specific questions.

FIRST FLIGHT? In 1994 when she took a 30 minute introductory flight lesson at a local flight school. Flying was in her blood. Her dad was a pilot and her mom a flight attendant. She currently has two sisters who are flight attendants.

INTEREST IN THE AIR FORCE? Maggie became interested in Air Force during her flight training at the University of Illinois. She had an instructor who was in the Air National Guard. She thought it would be “cool” to join the Air Force but had cold feet on the idea when she graduated. She “wasn’t ready to pull the trigger.” Later as an airline captain, when driving by the Air National Guard on the way to work at the Louisville Airport, she regretted that she passed on the early opportunity to join. When the opportunity came up again, she was ready.

REACTION FROM HER FAMILLY? At first she was nervous to tell her mom but her dad was very supportive. Later her sisters told her that her mom was very nervous upon hearing of Maggie’s decision. By the time she saw her mom, she was very supportive too.

HOW DOES BEING ON THE ROAD IN THE AIRFORCE AFFECT HER FAMILY LIFE? She doesn’t get to come home often. She came home twice this year … once at Christmas time. She does get layovers where family and friends can visit. Her dad came to Wright Patterson AFB a couple of months ago and got to see her arrive in the C-17.

IS SHE ABLE TO ENJOY PLACES SHE FLYS TO? When she’s on the road she has a personal policy that, as long as it’s safe she will get out and see the world. The crew may fly 24 hour days but she’ll shower up, go out and enjoy the afternoon then get to bed to keep the strict sleep schedule required for safe aircraft operations.

DOES FLIGHT OVER UNFREINDLY AREAS MAKE HER SCARED? She responded that they are trained in all scenarios … for missions in unfriendly as well as friendly airspace. The aircraft is equipped to handle unfriendly skies as are the ground personal. Also she is part of a system where she trusts her comrades as well as all the personal that enable their operations. She is part of a team. There’s not much to worry about from their flight standpoint and there is no time to be scared anyway … their goal is to get the cargo to where it needs to go.

DOES SHE KNOW THE HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE OF MATERIAL TRANSPORT? Maggie does know that history. She is proud that she is involved in the important duty of material supply but she adds that it’s even more fulfilling when operating personal come with that cargo. Tanks come with operators and she loves to hear the stories of their experiences. She explains that her love of people probably comes from her background as an airline pilot.

C-17 hauls cargo and operators.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Maggie. It’s both heart-warming and motivating. God Speed!

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