The Woman Behind the Masks

"I'm so thankful for that friend who said those simple little words,
"You should do it.""


Today, we'd like to introduce you to Brianne Kroupa, whose idea it was to start #facemasksforaviation, where a group of volunteers created over 1500 free face masks for fellow aviators in the month of April. Brianne is a private pilot with her dispatcher certification and an avid seamstresses. We are thrilled to call her a member of the One Plane Jane family!

1) Tell us about yourself.

About me, oh let's see where do I start, I was born in a small town... haha no, I won't bore you with all those little details, I'll keep this answer short since the next one is a bit lengthy. Short answer, I love God and my family more than I can say. I'm very passionate about two things: sewing and flying, and I love being able to help others any way I can. My career, so far, has been in the sewing community, but, falling for aviation, that all changed. While I still have my quilting business, it's just a little more low key than it had been, and my sewing has only evolved to include aviation related things. Airplane fabric is the BEST!!! Airplane dresses, airplane bags, airplane quilts, airplanes on everything. (I was actually able to make enough airplane clothes so that at Oshkosh I wore a different garment with airplanes on it every day of the week.)


One of Brianne's aviation outfits at Oshkosh. She made her top. 


2) Tell us about your flight path to this date.

This is a little bit of a long story so please stay with me. I've always loved airplanes but my "flight journey" really started when I took a flight with someone in a small GA plane. I absolutely loved the air but my favorite part was hearing the air traffic controllers. I mentioned to the person flying that it would be really interesting to be an Air Traffic Controller, his first comment was, "You should do it." So with that encouragement I started looking into ATC, after talking with a controller and doing a job shadow at a local tower. I knew without a doubt I wanted to be a controller. My next step was to look into schools and options. I decided to go to a college for ATC, one of the requirements to graduate was to have a private pilot's license. Since there would be a few months before I started school, I decided to work on my license. Shortly after a few flight lessons I fell in love with the sky.  After a few months and quite a few setbacks I got my license in April of 2019, that was a day I'll never forget. 

Getting her private, she had to wear sectional leggings. The examiner loved them, She thinks she may have gotten herself a pair. 


It was around the same time that I was informed that the college I was enrolled in decided to cancel their ATC program, I was at a loss on what to do. After doing A LOT of research that school seemed to have the best program options within a price that I could afford. One of the other reasons I chose that school was because they offered a dispatch program as well. My plan was going to get my dispatch certification in addition to my ATC degree. That way I would be able to work dispatch while waiting for an offer from the FAA, or if one never came I still had an amazing job in aviation. It took a few weeks of more research, getting opinions from controllers, that I decided finding another college for ATC wasn't my best option, and that I would get my dispatch certification instead. This way I'm a little higher qualified for the ATC openings that the FAA has and I don't add a lot of student loans for a degree that is basically worthless if I don't become a controller. 


It took a few months because of life changes, but Valentine's day 2020 I passed my dispatch practical exam and received my certification. I completed my dispatch training in 6 weeks, it was rather  difficult but I kept my head in my studies literally all day and was able to achieve my goal. That day will also be one I never forget, having the examiner stop asking me questions, me looking a little confused as there was still a good hour and a half available for the test, him getting out of his chair going to his computer, me asking him if we are done and him saying "Yep Congratulations you passed, your going to be a great dispatcher." That will never pass out my memory. My most recent steps have been finding a job, because I'm not located in a town with an airline headquarters, I won't be able to work dispatch at an airline unless we move. While there are a few charter companies in the area none are hiring dispatch positions. So I started looking for ANY job in aviation, I'm thankful to have found a customer service position and to have been hired just before COVID hit. It was a weird few months but I'm excited to have been able to go into work this week, my first day was very interesting and it'll be fun to experience this part of the industry. 

After getting her dispatch certificate. She was so excited but so tired too.


That has been my "professional" path so far, as for my personal flying, since getting my license I have logged quite a few hours. I've flown a long cross country, Minnesota to Kansas and back, been to Oshkosh 2019, flown a few Young Eagles flights, and I've also been active in my local 99s chapter. Since moving to western New York, I have been unable to find a plane to fly at a decent rate, but that hasn't stopped me from being involved. I have  joined the Civil Air Patrol with hopes to start flying with them soon, found a new 99s chapter to be a part of, and I'll be looking for an EAA chapter once things start to get back to normal. That's the beauty of aviation, we're a family and no matter where you are, you're always a part of it. That's my path so far, and I'm excited to see what happens next.


3). Finish this sentence: "Leadership is..." 

Leadership is providing someone with the opportunities to grow, and showing them by example how to do something. 


4) How did you recognize the need for masks in our aviation community?

At the beginning of the COVID crisis I was wondering how the controllers, pilots and other airline employees would handle it. Many of the spaces these people work in are small and they have a lot of contact with others each day. I started hearing reports of whole towers being closed because of infection, flight attendants getting sick, and many other things going on. It was at the same time I noticed the sewing community stepping up and sewing face masks for doctors, nurses and other first responders. That's when the idea hit me, we should make masks for the aviation community, it would be something to help keep them safe. At that time masks were extremely hard to find,  sewing truly was the only option to keep our people safe.  

Her favorite airplane quilt she's made. She embroidered each of the blocks by hand; just one took about 6 hours.


5) What did you learn from other aviation seamstresses and the aviation community, as a whole, during the project #facemasksforaviation ?

My main takeaway from the project is that this community is so giving. We stick together and help our people. I was amazed at how many seamstresses volunteered, all of whom are part of the community. Some are seasoned pilots who have flown around the world, others are just starting their flying journey. It was awesome to meet so many amazing ladies who both fly and sew. That combination doesn't come around all that often. I also was absolutely blown away by the amount of financial support we received, in only a few short weeks we received over $2,000 to use for supplies. We were able to spend wisely and many seamstresses donated fabric, because of that we were able to donate just over $1,500 to a scholarship fund. I'm so thankful for everyone who helped with the project; we couldn't have done it without any of you!!!

One of the things she likes to do is take pictures of her garments she has made with aviation themed backgrounds. Then when she shares about the garments on IG, everyone also sees the airplanes. (She made these pants, yes they are pants and they are the most amazing things ever.)


6) How can pilots and other aviation professionals use aviation to give back to their communities and/or use their other talents to give back to aviation?

There are so many ways to give in this community, a couple of my favorites are helping with the EAA Young Eagles program and helping with the 99s International Organization of Women Pilots.  One of the amazing things about this community is there are so many aspects to it. Aviation is more than just being a pilot. While being a pilot is awesome, there are so many people that make this community work: controllers, mechanics, FBO workers, flight attendants, ramp agents, dispatchers, avionics techs, and so many more. I would say that one way to help people in their communities, is to just tell people about their jobs in aviation. Many people don't know the aspects of aviation so taking the time to describe their job could change someone's life. This will also help the aviation community as many of the positions are lacking personnel to fill them. As far as using your talents in the aviation community, don't be shy. If you can do something and want to help, just say so. Many organizations need help in all forms, from accountants to social media managers, so really any skill can be helpful.


One of the 99s events was visiting a C130, which was so cool.


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

Well the Bible has been the book that has done the most in my life. I also like The Desire of Ages and Steps to Christ by Ellen White, as they both have helped me understand how to live my life as a better person and see the love of God more clearly.


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

One of the major setbacks I am actually thankful for is that the college I was enrolled in, canceled their ATC program. At the time I was shocked and unsure of how to go forward. Looking back it was a blessing because my life changed and that really wouldn't have fit with my life now. It showed me to not focus on the "bad" of things that happen but focus on the good of something, it might be hard to find but there's always good.


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

Oh this is an interesting question, I would probably say "If there's something you want to do, just go for it. There's enough things in the world holding people back, don't hold yourself back, you can do anything you set your mind to!!!" 


Brianne with a Compass Rose the 99s painted.


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

I'd probably have to say the airplane, there's nothing like being up in the sky. Like I said, I've always liked airplanes. When I was a small kid I flew from Minnesota to Oklahoma, I remember getting those little wings from the pilot, I kept them for so long sadly they ended up getting lost in a move. I also kept the magazine that said what plane we flew on, it was so cool looking at those planes on that page. I remember thinking it would be so cool to be a pilot or a flight attendant but because I was never exposed to the options there are, I never thought I could do it. So honestly I didn't think about it as an option and completely forgot about it, little did I know what God had in store for me. I'm thankful for the people who have helped me along the way and I'm so thankful for that friend who said those simple little words, "You should do it." So let me end by saying if you are like me and need a little push, "YOU CAN DO IT!" 


Brianne loves her aviation T-Shirts. They are actually one of the only garments she buys now, as she tends to make all her other clothes. Here she made the pants, taking pictures while at an air museum. 
You can connect with Brianne on Instagram @bkroupa
Be sure to tell her and the other ladies "Thank you" for the face masks!



Thank you again to everyone who donated to #facemasksforaviation and to all of our volunteers, especially Brianne, Emmy, and Allyssa. Thanks to leftover funds from donations, combined with previous fundraising, we are happy to announce that we will be able to award at least one $2500 scholarship this year! Our goal is two! If you would like to contribute, you can do so HERE. Thank you!

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