Pilots are Leaders Part VI with Kim Kissh

"Leadership is about giving people value." -Kim Kissh
Part VI of "Pilot are Leaders" continues with corporate pilot, aviation professional, and flying enthusiast, Kim Kissh!


Tell us about yourself.

Hi my name is Kim and I’m a 23 year old business aviation professional and flying enthusiast. When I’m not flying or in the office I’m usually with my black lab mix named Captain. 



Which came first, for you, the adventure or the airplane? 

The adventure of challenge came to my first. When I was 15 my dad said to me, “by the time you ever become a pilot, I’ll be anointed pope.” From that moment I was determined to become a pilot.



Tell us about your flight path to this date.

My flight path, like most people in corporate aviation, is a little unorthodox. I went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University when I was 17 and graduated in 2018 with my Bachelors in Aeronautical Science and Aviation Safety. I was able to apply my safety education during a 4 month internship with the Luv Airline, Southwest Airlines! In Dallas, Texas I worked as the airline's Flight Operations Safety Intern and assisted the safety team with ASAP, FOQA, Fatigue, and Quality Assurance projects. Throughout my 4 years at ERAU I volunteered for on campus organizations such as Women in Aviation Daytona Beach Chapter, Student alumni ambassadors, and Alpha Xi Delta sorority. While balancing flight school and on-campus extracurriculars I found an extra challenge in volunteering for Dreams Soar, the nonprofit that’s propelled Shaesta Waiz on the around the world flight, and Women in Corporate Aviation. My clubs and volunteer work helped prepare me for the real world that was ahead of me.

In July of 2018, I finished my flight ratings and started a job with Tailwind Air, a private management and charter company based in White Plains, NY. I was hired as an SIC on a TBM (a single engine turbo prop) and flight admin. As SIC I am a full time crew member flying passengers in and around the NYC area. My duties as flight admin extend as small as submitting pilot records or as large as creating quality control checklists for all managed planes.



Finish this sentence: "Leadership is..." 

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence” is one of my favorite quotes by Sheryl Sandberg. I believe this means leadership isn’t about making demands or commanding a crowd, it’s about giving people value in addition to completing a task.



Tell us about the importance of mentorship in aviation.

Mentorship was and still is crucial to my career. I’ve had mentors guide me through important steps in my professional career as well as industry leaders who saw potential in me and aided in my growing network. I believe it’s also important to become a mentor because it’s grounding to be reminded of the struggles we all go through as a young aviator and to see how far we’ve come.



What advice would you give to a low-time pilot who does not want to flight instruct to get to 1500 hours?

If you are not interested in instructing, you must be creative! What I mean by that is go out to real companies, meet people face to face and ask what they want to see in a young professional. You will most likely not be able to find a flying job right off the bat, so you’ll have to find other ways to gain people’s trust in your character and flying. Ask questions like, “What do you look for in an ideal candidate? What does your company need help with?” Because it shows you care enough about the company that you’re willing to do more than flying.



How did you decide to pursue corporate flying? Do you see yourself flying corporate 10 years from now?

I pursued corporate flying for a couple different reasons, but it boils down to lifestyle for me. I hate routines! So the idea of not knowing where you’re going until a couple days, day of, or sometimes last minute switch destinations is thrilling and challenging to me. I always say I’m young with no major commitments, so I’ll go wherever you want to send me. There’s also a whole other level of customer service involved. These are people that paid a lot of money for their flight, so it’s a job as the unofficial ambassador and face of the company to do as much as you can for them. That could include a specific snack, newspaper, and/or temperature of water (yes, that’s a thing.) I like knowing I’m not only getting someone to their destination but having them enjoy it at the same time. It allows me to feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself. I absolutely see myself flying corporate in 10 years. Ideally, I would love to work for a Fortune 50 or a Fortune 100 flight department and eventually run the flight department as a chief pilot or director of safety.



What are one to three books that greatly influenced your life?

A book that really influenced my life was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I was in high school when I read it and I was involved in a couple of different clubs. I remember specifically I started as a photographer for the school newspaper. The meetings were run by the executive board that was mostly guys. For the first couple meetings I sat in the back and didn’t really say much even though I had things I wanted to say. I waited till the end of the meetings and then would talk to one of my friends who was on the board. After reading Lean In, I decided I needed to sit in the front and made sure I was heard. That’s just a small example of how that book really shaped who I am and how I carry myself every day and specifically professionally.



Do you have a "favorite failure" that set you up for success later in your flying experience or life, in general?

My favorite failure would date back to high school. I knew I wanted to learn how to fly my sophomore year, but at the same time I was heavily focused on lacrosse. I tried out for varsity, and, as the captain of the junior varsity team, I thought I was a shoe-in to make the team. Well, turns out they decided to take a smaller team that year and I was one of the many girls they cut. At the time I was devastated as any other high schooler would be. Given that my schedule on week days after school were now empty, I found that I could focus on how to prepare for college. I found that my school had an internship program which I ultimately applied for and was accepted into. I started working at MillionAir FBO, which was then another turning point for me to be exposed to corporate aviation, real experiences, and VIP clients. Looking back I’m so glad I didn’t let a sports team influence what ultimately helped lead to my success.



What message would you put on a billboard, next to the exit for a major international airport?

Wow what an interesting question and I’m honestly stumped! I think I would put a quote that would inspire people to travel such as, “I travel not to cross countries off the list, but to ignite passionate affairs with destinations.” 



Thank you, Kim, for sharing your story with us! Connect with and follow Kim on Instagram @kimkissh. We hope you have enjoyed our series, "Pilots are Leaders," to celebrate Women's History Month. 

Leave a comment