certificate in 1987. “I’ve been a pilot ever since. If it weren’t for my dad’s instruction and leadership, I would not be the pilot I am today,” she said. Even after earning her Bachelors in Meteorology from the University of North Carolina Asheville, she continued flying.
She’s a woman, but when Michelle Rohter climbs into a seaplane, she is a pilot first. As Kenmore Air’s first female pilot, she gets some curious looks from passengers, but she simply smiles and says, “The stripes don’t mean flight attendant.” Michelle loves to fly and can’t get enough of it. “I really enjoy flying. If I won the lottery, I’d still be doing it. It just wouldn’t be my livelihood,” she said.
Wheels to Floats Becoming a seaplane pilot wasn’t the plan. “I had over 1,000 hours of wheel time, so it didn’t make a lot of sense,” Michelle said. Moving to the West Coast was more about a change of scenery than trying out a new plane. Michelle said: “I was looking for anywhere with mountains. I love Colorado and Wyoming. I never thought about Seattle, but in ’97, there were only a handful of places hiring flight instructors. Snohomish Flying Service was one and so I moved here.” When a friend took her for a seaplane ride-along at Kenmore, she loved it. Burnt out on flight instruction, she inquired about flying on Kenmore’s crew. To get her stripes, she’d have to pay her dues. “I was told I would work the line pumping gas. And then, maybe the next year, they’d consider me for flight instruction,” Michelle said. By 1998, she was a Kenmore Air flight instructor. The following year, she became Kenmore Air’s first full-time female pilot. Today, she remains the only fulltime woman pilot and one of a handful of Kenmore Air pilots who can fly the entire line, including the large 10-passenger Otter. Although Michelle is the only year-round, full-time female pilot, currently there are two other full-time seasonal female pilots at Kenmore Air.
A Pilot’s Daughter When Michelle was 14-years-old, she dreamed of being a veterinarian. Her dreams changed when she was snatched from the melting pot of Quebec, Canada and transplanted in North Carolina, where her dad had bought a private airport. “It was a culture shock,” she said. Her dad became a flight instructor and offered the occasional charter flight. Under his tutelage, she learned to fly and earned her pilot
Love on the Dock The aviation community is small. But not so small that romance can’t flourish. When another pilot Michelle had never met offered to help her “tail out,” she couldn’t help but notice he was cute. (Tailing out is grabbing the sea-
Kenmore Air’s First Full-time Female Pilot By Mikaela Cowles
Summer 2013 issue of HARBORS Magazine, the Kenmore Air Destination Magazine