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Tue, Apr 16, 2024

Jamie Klaes Awarded WAI Martha King Scholarship

One Alaskan Pilot Recognized for Stalwart Defense of Rural Flying

One pilot in the Alaskan town of Bettles has taken upon herself to keep the tradition alive, and her efforts are already making a difference in far-flung rural towns up North.

Jamie Klaes has been recognized by Women in Aviation, International for her work in fostering future generations of aviators via her work with her firm, CKT Aviation and educator Alaska Excel. That work has been recognized with the WAI Martha King Scholarship for Female Flight Instructors, a financial aid package that includes $20,000 in value between a $5,000 stipend towards future flight training and the entire catalog of King Schools' aviation training curricula.

Klaes grew up in an airborne family, with both her parents flying air taxi operations for their small town. With 3 aircraft in the fleet, it's no surprise Klaes eventually worked her way into the left seat, too, though she admits "it was still hard to find the confidence to do it myself" in the beginning. But still, Klaes persevered, ultimately working to get the brass ring of flying certs: her Airline Transport Pilot rating. Still, working for herself wasn't enough, as Klaes watched the dwindling tradition of Alaskan aviation losing people left and right.

"I realized that other youths who did not grow up with role models in the aviation industry or access to airplanes could really struggle to believe they could achieve something like that, " she said, hinting that the cost barrier isn't the only thing that keeps kids on the ground. To help tamp down those barriers as best she can, she embarked on CKT Aviation, which works with Alaska Excel to provide academic and technical education for rural Alaska youth.

"We are now working with almost 20 remote school districts to offer introductory courses into aviation," Klaes said. "Upon graduating, high school students are offered internships at local air taxis where they continue their training."

The program does more than give the kids a modicum of aeronautical education, though - and that's where it really shines. Students get mentorship and support in the areas surrounding their aviation career, too, to the point of being assisted in getting housing and transportation for a new job or internship. For kids isolated in a small town, that's a great way to get over the hump of moving outside their comfort zone and venture into the world beyond. As a result, Klaes says that 90% of graduates end up staying in the state, with a whopping 70% staying in rural Alaska.

FMI: www.wai.org, www.alaskaexcel.org

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