By Pam Brown
The first time U.S. Airways pilot Linda Christopherson saw Kaua‘i, her life changed. As the plane she was flying broke through the clouds at 1,000 feet, “I knew in an instant that this is where I was supposed to be.”
A pilot since 1986, Linda has flown and landed planes throughout the United States including O‘ahu, Maui and the Big Island of Hawai‘i, Canada and Mexico, so she was surprised by her reaction. She was even more amazed by the goose bumps that kept appearing on her arms all day long that first day on Kaua‘i.
Five years later, Kaua‘i is the only place Linda will fly, normally making the trip six times per month from U.S. Airways’ headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz.
“If I do get assigned to fly to another island, I ask the pilot assigned to Kaua‘i to switch with me,” she says. “Sometimes I have to sweeten the pot a little so I’ll let them borrow my truck next time they come to Kaua‘i.”
Yes, she has her own truck on Kaua‘i, recently brought her own bicycle over from Arizona and has golf and dinner dates every time she touches down on the Garden Island. She even has a Hawaiian drivers license.
Youngest Female Captain
Linda took her first flying lesson in 1980 when she was 20 years old. A skydiver, she learned how to fly the jump plane, “because the jump plane pilot is everyone’s hero. I thought it would be cool.” But soon she was drawn to larger planes.
Hired by Frontier Airlines in 1986 at the age of 26, she helped to make history. On her first official flight after completing her training, she was shocked to find herself co-piloting under Emily Howell Warner – the first woman ever hired as a pilot by a United States airline – and Linda’s idol.
Emily instructed Linda to be the pilot on the return trip. Taking a deep breath, Linda took control of the Boeing 737 and began flying it back to Denver. As the plane got up to altitude, Emily said she was going to make an announcement to the passengers and that Linda needed to listen to it.
“Emily says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. I’m turning off the seat belt sign. We’re making history today. Today is the first time there has ever been an all-female flight crew.’ ” Both pilots and all three flight attendants were women.
Three years later, at the age of 29, while flying for America West Airlines, Linda became the youngest female captain for a major U.S. airline. “But I’m sure some sweet young thing has probably beaten that by now,” she says laughing.
In 2010, she captained her own all-female flight crew to Kaua‘i. “As soon as we landed we all went out to celebrate at the hotel where we stay on Kaua‘i, had a barbecue and made s’mores!”
Captain Linda enjoys sharing her love of flying with students at career days and as a guest speaker in classrooms, appearing in uniform and inspiring children with stories of her life as a pilot. She even built a flight simulator for elementary school-age kids that they can sit in and pretend to push buttons.
“I talk to them about staying off drugs, staying in school, that your parents are your first sponsor in life and to treat them well,” she says.
But most of all, she enjoys every moment of her life while fondly envisioning the day when she will make Kaua‘i her permanent home.
Linda even consulted a Feng Shui expert in Arizona about how to create the life she desires. The expert recommended that she place a “nice, loving, warm book” on her Phoenix bedroom nightstand. Linda chose the book “Kaua‘i Stories.”
“If I lived here,” she says of Kaua‘i, “I would be truly home.”
- Pamela Varma Brown is the publisher of “Kaua‘i Stories,” and the forthcoming “Kaua‘i Stories 2.”