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Durango woman on track to take flight as professional pilot – The Durango Herald

Eliana Rothwell became captivated by aviation as she watched air tankers battle wildfires

Rothwell is working with United Airlines to complete its pilot career development program, Aviate. Becoming a commercial pilot for United Airlines is the best-case scenario, she said. (Courtesy of Eliana Rothwell)

Eliana Rothwell grew up in Durango and works to break the glass ceiling for women in the aviation industry.

Rothwell is president and founder of Women in Aviation Delaware Diamond Chapter. She is also studying aviation at Delaware State University and working towards becoming a professional pilot.

In 2020, 8.4% of pilots were women, according to a Federal Aviation Administration study, and as a child, Rothwell didn’t see many opportunities for her in the industry.

In the past, the aviation industry was dominated by retired military personnel, she said.

“I didn’t know that was going to be an option for me, mainly because in the small town of Durango, I didn’t know a lot of pilots, especially female pilots and people of color who are pilots,” he said. she declared. said.

Rothwell is Hispanic and was born in Mexico. She was adopted by a Durango family at birth. She remembers always having had an interest in flying.

“I’ve always thought it was fascinating to watch planes, especially during forest fires – to see them swoop in and save the day,” she said. “I always wondered what it would be like to be in the cockpit, but I never really pursued anything…for a long time,” she said.

As Rothwell tried to figure out what she wanted to do with her life, her neighbor and former commercial pilot Joe Tumminaro flew her to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the world’s greatest air show, AirVenture.

“When I took her there, she was like, ‘You know, that’s fine, but women don’t do that,'” Tumminaro said. “Out came the daughter of my wife’s roommate in college, a 747 captain who flies cargo all over the world. She sat down with Eliana and Eliana said, ‘Really? Uh? Can you do it? ‘”

At the air show, Tumminaro introduced Rothwell to many other female pilots.

Tumminaro also took Rothwell on his first flight inside the cockpit of his 1944 Beech 18. Together they soared, around and down the valley, over the college and back to the airport. Tumminaro let Rothwell take charge.

From then on, Rothwell knew she liked to fly and wanted to pursue him.

“I’m looking for that tipping point that’s like, ‘Holy shit, I’m really gonna fly. It’s really amazing,'” Tumminaro said. “That’s when the fire roars and she has lit that fire. She’s smart, she knows how to do it. She knows how to study and work hard for it.

Eliana Rothwell is Hispanic and was born in Mexico. She was adopted by a Durango family at birth. She remembers always having had an interest in flying. (Courtesy of Eliana Rothwell)

Rothwell transferred from Fort Lewis College to Delaware State University in the spring of 2019. In March 2020, she and other students were sponsored by the university to attend the Women in Aviation International Conference.

“The conference is all-women in aviation – all fields: mechanics, engineers, flight attendants, pilots,” she said. “This is the most powerful and impactful event you can witness in your life, being a woman in aviation.”

Since attending the conference, Rothwell wanted to start a WAI chapter in Delaware. COVID-19 hampered his plans, but in September 2021 Rothwell finally got the ball rolling.

The chapter now meets once a month for activities and discussions on topics relevant to women in aviation.

When the WAI International Conference returned in 2022, Rothwell and other WAI Chapter Board members expected to be sponsored by the university again to attend. Due to a COVID-19 outbreak in February, DSU was unable to send students to the conference.

“I was heartbroken,” she said.

But Rothwell was determined to travel with seven other chapter members to Nashville, Tennessee, for the conference, so she decided to use her new WAI chapter to raise funds on her own.

Within three weeks, Rothwell and the WAI Chapter Board secured sponsorship from Amazon and raised $13,000 through United, Piedmont and Alaskan airlines, as well as GoFundMe donations.

“The aviation community is tight-knit,” she said. “In the first week, we had over five grand and I was like, ‘Hey, this is actually doable!'”

Lala Holmes was one of seven people who attended the WAI 2022 conference due to Rothwell’s determination. Holmes is the secretary of the WAI Diamond Delaware Chapter and is a senior at DSU studying aviation.

“She’s really an inspiration to me. She’s a really gracious, forgiving and honest person. I really respect her,” Holmes said. “It meant a lot because it was a lot of money. We met many airlines. She worked so hard to get us there.

Due to an omicron surge in February, Delaware State University was unable to sponsor students at the annual Woman in Aviation conference. But Rothwell was determined to travel with seven other chapter members to Nashville, Tennessee, for the conference, so she decided to use her new WAI chapter to raise funds on her own. (Courtesy of Eliana Rothwell)

Rothwell is now working with United Airlines to complete its pilot career development program, Aviate. Becoming a commercial pilot for United Airlines is the best-case scenario, Rothwell said.

“For so long Durango was so small and United was one of the only airlines that served Durango and it was the only airline we could fly from. That’s how I was able to explore other cultures and see new things and grow as a person through United,” she said. “And then as I got older and got more into the industry, I connected a lot and I understand their mission.”

One of Rothwell’s biggest goals is to inspire other women and people of color to become pilots.

“I feel like as women we look more at other women and say, ‘Oh, if she can do it, I can do it. I didn’t have a lot of that growing up,” she said. “It means a lot to me to be in aviation, especially as a woman of color. I hope I can inspire more young people to get involved.

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