Take the Adventure - Pilots are Leaders, Part V with Claire

"Pilots are Leaders" continues in part five, featuring corporate pilot, adventurer, and Sky Kids coordinator, Claire Schindler. 


Tell us about yourself.

Hi, my name is Claire and I'm a One Plane Jane Ambassador. I fly the Falcon 7X for a private charter company and in my spare time I help organize the California Sky Kids event. My favorite color is blue and my favorite food is mac and cheese. I love exploring and going on hikes with my dog Otis, while being engaged to the perfect man, Michael. 



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

Definitely the adventure. I was very lucky that I grew up just outside of Washington D.C. so trips to the National Mall with my Dad happened every weekend. It was on one of our many trips to see the Air and Space Mueseum that I discovered Amelia Earhart. I loved seeing her travel the world and explore all under her own power. I went home from the museum with her doll at the age of 10 and later on my 23rd birthday, I got her Barbie doll. 



Tell us about your flight path to this date.

After I discovered the adventure of flight, my dad found this organization called Civil Air Patrol (CAP), a volunteer auxillary of the US Air Force that allowed kids at the age of 12 to join and get five free flights a year. I went through their flight academy and got my first 10 hours of flight there. When I came home, my dad didn't want me to lose momentum so he signed me up for flight lessons at the local airport and I earned my private pilot license at the age of 17 before I went to college. I earned my instrument and commercial SEL and MEL while attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ. One of my engineering friends told me that his hometown airport was hiring to chase drones. It sounded fun so I applied and I ended up chasing predators and reapors in a Cessna 210 for about a year and a half with a company called Chalk 2, in Apply Valley, CA. My amazing boss let me finish my CFI at Camarillo airport on weekends. After I earned my hours, one of my contacts told me about a new charter company starting up and I did an interview and 3 months later I was flying a Falcon 7X. I've been working with this company for almost 2 years now and I absolutely love it.



Finish this sentence: "Leadership is..." 

Leadership is to be able to effectively guide and manage and group of people towards a common goal. But really, to me personally, can you as a leader inspire and unite a group of people towards victory?



Tell us about Sky Kids and your experience with the organization.

Sky Kids Inc is a 501(c)3 organization that was started in Phoenix, AZ almost 10 years ago by Bill Antonucci and his friends in order to give children with special needs and disabilities a flight in a general aviation aircraft free of charge. This is a whole day for the kids filled with music, dancing, lunch and costumed characters. This event is meant to build confidence and self-esteem for these kids that would otherwise not have a chance to experience anything like handling a complex machine, such as an aircraft. I found Sky Kids while I was in college in Arizona and volunteered for 2 years by giving the aircraft safety briefing and leading families to and from the aircraft. It was the smiles from the kids coming back from their flight that made me fall in love with this event. So after graduating college and getting settled in our careers, my friend Adam and I decided to take on hosting our very own Sky Kids event. We put on our first successful Sky Kids event in September of 2019 and had 45 families participate. We are now currently planning our next California Sky Kids event for September 26th, 2020 at Chino airport. 


 See details from last year's event and more photos here.



How can someone support your efforts with Sky Kids or get involved themselves?

If you are interested in getting involved with Sky Kids please feel free to visit our website: http://skykidsusa.org. You can see our mission statement, when and where we're having our next Sky Kids event, as well as our staff. As of right now, we are still looking for sponsors for our next California event. So if you or anyone you know that has a company that would be interested in a tax-deductible donation with free advertisement, please feel free to contact us! As we are a 501(c)3 we run completely salary-free so we need a lot of volunteers, over 100 per event to be precise. We generally start looking for volunteers in June so that we can focus and secure funding before we start reaching out to people. We need about 15 volunteer pilots with their own plane. Volunteer pilots are given a fuel discount on location and can use their hobbs time as a tax deduction, based on the horsepower of their aircraft. We need ground volunteers for setup, tear down, parking, check-in, food serving, the welcome back squad and loaders that take the families to and from the aircraft. Lastly, if you are involved with marketing or are familiar with the special needs community, we would love a better outreach to the local families to come out and participate in our event. Sky Kids is also on Facebook and Instagram but if you have any questions or would like to get more involved, my email is: claire@skykidsusa.org  



What advice would you give a young lady, graduating high school, who doesn't know if she wants to fly commercial or corporate?

I know a lot of people struggle with this decision and I honestly think it all comes down to lifestyle. I would say if you appreciate standardization when it comes to procedures and more of a structured and gaurenteed schedule, then I say airlines is for you. But if you're in a position in your life where you really like to travel and problem solve and can roll with the punches then corporate might be for you. In the airlines you bid for your schedule, whereas a coporate company you might have a flexible schedule of certain days off a month or even a private owner that operates on a "on-call basis," which means they can call you at any time to fly. In the airlines, your flight planning, loading and cleaning is all done for you, but for a charter company you're the one loading bags, doublechecking the flight plan and cleaning the plane afterwards. I would also say there are many outreach programs for airlines, therefore its relatively easy to find a pipeline into an airline. It is much harder to get your foot in the door with corporate as there isn't a lot of advertisement for it, but conversely, that just means that you should be more connected to the aviation community in order to be involved and well-known. I think if you're truly undecided, you should try contacting a pilot within each one and ask them would a day in the life is like and what they enjoy and what they dislike about their job. 



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

I loved The Hunger Games because it was one of the first books I read with a strong female lead. The Aviators by Winston Groom took my love of history and aviation and taught me how aviation has developed over the years. And lastly Sky Girl" by Gene Nora Jessen, that taught me about my new favorite role model Pancho Barnes and the pathway of the aviatrices before me. 



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

I failed my CFI checkride, not once but twice. It was frustrating and embarrassing. I wanted to give up, but I didn't. I shoved that negativity off to the side, buckled down and took it one more time. If I had given up I wouldn't have been able to share my love of flying with others, or been a training manager but worst of all I would have been giving up on myself. When I was alone in my type rating training with people subtely or not so subtely hinting I shouldn't be there for my age and experience level, it would've been easy to give up but looking back at what I overcame to get there and the people that got me there I couldn't stop. Its the persistance from my darkest times that have pushed me forward ever since. I refuse to give up on myself. 



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

I would have the billboard say: "Take the adventure!" to remind people why they should travel. 



Thank you, Claire, for sharing your story with us! Connect with and follow Claire on Instagram @gillians_list  Stay tuned as our series continues, "Pilots are Leaders," celebrating Women's History Month!


  • Posted by Kathleen Schindler on


Leave a comment