Q&A with Amanda Penna, XOJET Citation X co-pilot
In honor of the 24th Annual International Women in Aviation Conference later this week, the XOJET Blog is re-posting some popular profiles from last year’s series celebrating the great women who work at XOJET. Today’s post is an interview with Amanda Penna, co-pilot on the XOJET Citation X super-mid-size private jet, who was recruited from the same conference in 2011.
XOJET Blog: Amanda, tell us a little bit about you and your role at XOJET.
Amanda: I’m a co-pilot on the XOJET Citation X private jet. XOJET recruited me at the Women in Aviation conference last year, and I joined the company in April from Colgan Air, a regional Continental connection feeder airline.
XOJET Blog: What are the responsibilities of a co-pilot on a Citation X?
Amanda: A co-pilot’s job on a Citation Xis to support the pilot in command—the captain—with whatever he or she needs. Often we divide and conquer the tasks depending on the flight. That can include flying the jet, handling the radios, assisting the passengers, loading the luggage, or flight planning. However, the captain has the ultimate responsibility for the flight.
XOJET Blog: How did you get started flying?
Amanda: It’s a funny story. When I was 16, during that lazy time between the end of school and starting your summer job, my dad said, “Why don’t you go take a flying lesson?” I thought, why not? And I fell in love with it. I couldn’t get enough. I kept asking for more lessons, which turned into a goal to become licensed. That’s when it turned into a career path, and I ended up at Purdue. At Purdue, they use juniors and seniors to teach flying. So I became a part-time flight instructor there, which really built up my flight time. Today, I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t flying.
XOJET Blog: What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve encountered as a female pilot?
Amanda: I’d have to say that the biggest challenge is packing my darned suitcase! I could be in Anchorage on Tuesday and Miami on Thursday. It makes packing for eight days tough. I always pack a bathing suit as well as a hat and gloves.
Other than that, I feel very fortunate. I haven’t run into any obstacles as a woman pilot. The number of women in aviation is growing. I’m sure the pioneering woman in aviation had challenges, but I actually think being a woman has its advantages. There are so many programs to help women pilots today. For example, at the 2010 Women in Aviation Conference, I won a scholarship for a full Boeing 737 training experience—five and a half weeks of full-flight simulator training on a 737-800, free of cost!
XOJET Blog: So you’ve been attending the Women in Aviation Conference for years?
Amanda: I’ve been going to the conference for the last five years. Every year I learn something new—so it’s worth every penny. Last year I found XOJET there.
XOJET Blog: Tell us about flying the Citation X.
Amanda: What can I say? It’s quite a rush flying a private jet like the Citation X after flying commuter planes. It’s like a little hot rod. You can’t beat how fast it is; after all, with a top speed of 0.92 Mach, it’s the fastest commercial aircraft in the world. It still blows my mind how quickly you can get from coast to coast in it—in some cases, in as little as four hours. I don’t know how to describe it other than it feels fast and goes fast. My husband—who is a pilot for a regional commuter airline—is a little bit jealous, but he’s also very supportive.
XOJET Blog: What’s it like being a pilot at XOJET?
Amanda: Wow, that list could go on and on. The people at XOJET are incredible. Everybody from the instructors to the operations and client services teams want to do their jobs well. Everyone wants to do a great job not only for themselves but also for our clients. I really haven’t seen this much across-the-board enthusiasm before. It makes it really easy to go to work and to have fun.
The company culture is very caring—everyone takes care of each other. I feel valued and part of a team, not like a brick in the wall. The feel is so very different from regional airlines. Once the door closes on the cockpit, you’re very disconnected from everybody in the back of the plane. But at XOJET you get one-on-one interaction. You connect with the passengers and do your best to make them happy.
XOJET Blog: Who inspires you as a pilot?
Amanda: I’m a very easily inspired person, especially in aviation. I think the pilots at XOJET are so inspiring to work with. They are the best in the business; I learn something from each pilot I fly with.
XOJET Blog: What’s the most exotic destination you’ve flown into?
Amanda: In December, I flew a red-eye to Costa Rica and spent a full day there. It was fascinating to see how they handle aviation down there. One of the biggest challenges in flying to another country is the language barrier. Not only that, but the terminology and measurements are different—for example you have to order fuel in liters instead of gallons.
In the United States, one of my favorite airports is Aspen. It’s a very technical and challenging airport to fly into, but it’s also stunningly beautiful, and that makes it fun for pilots.
XOJET Blog: When you’re not flying, what do you do for fun?
Amanda: Well, I just got married a couple weeks ago. So after spending the last year planning the wedding, now we just like to relax. We both fly for a living, , so when we’re together we like to head outdoors to run, bicycle, hike, or go to the gym. But mostly we just like to relax at home together.
XOJET Blog: What’s your favorite part of being an XOJET pilot?
Amanda: The movement! I wouldn’t be happy sitting behind a desk. I like being on the go all the time. We never know where we’re going. I can be in West Palm Beach in the morning, Denver in the afternoon, and Phoenix the next day for dinner. It makes the world seem that much smaller. You’ll never hear me complain about that!