March 22, 2013
Student Courtney Copping extends remarkable legacy of top female pilots
SIU students inspire me every day with their amazing work ethic. Hundreds of people from around the world learned about that commitment during last weekend’s Women in Aviation Conference in Nashville, Tenn.
Courtney Copping, a senior with degree in aviation management who also is a flight instructor, received the Top Female Pilot award for 2012 from the National Intercollegiate Flying Association. Courtney, who is a member of our Flying Salukis, earned the award during last year’s national flying championships when our team finished third. She is continuing a remarkable legacy: Courtney is the fifth female pilot from SIU to earn that award over the past 14 years.
There was little time to celebrate. Come Monday morning, Courtney was back to work as a flight instructor and preparing with her Flying Salukis teammates to compete in the 2013 national flying championships in May. The team, which has ruled the skies in that competition eight times – most recently in 2011 -- earned that opportunity last fall by winning a fifth regional title in six years. Courtney, who is from St. Charles, was a big part of that success as well; she was the first woman in the history of that regional to earn top scoring contestant and top pilot honors.
Courtney is a third-generation aviator. Both grandfathers were military pilots, and her mother, Donna, was a flight attendant. Her dad, Clarence, is a 1977 graduate of our aviation program and is a senior captain with United Airlines. He plays a key role in organizing the annual United Airlines-SIU Career Day, which will take place this year on April 20. In late October, the SIU Alumni Association honored Clarence with its Distinguished Alumni award, which Courtney presented to her dad.
She never felt pressured to pursue a career in aviation, and it wasn’t until high school that she began giving it serious thought. In fact, though she had visited SIU with her dad a couple of times, Courtney never participated in the Career Day event.
“I looked at a couple of flight schools. When I came back to SIU for a tour, I was treated like family. I felt like I was being treated as a number at the other schools I visited.”
She fondly recalls all the help she received from coaches and veteran members of the Flying Salukis when she joined the team as a rather shy freshman. Now, as a role model and mentor, she gladly returns the favor.
“The people in the aviation program and on our team genuinely care about you; they want to help you succeed. There is a real closeness.”
She plans to work for a major airline, and is currently serving a year-long internship with Cape Air. Being in the skies, she says, “is so freeing.”
Of course, Courtney and her Flying Saluki teammates are hard at work preparing for the national competition. She will not reveal how they do that.
“It’s a secret how much we practice, because our competitors want to know that. Even if we are not in the air, we are always preparing.”
The sky really is the limit for our students. They know no bounds.