Just Like Dad

By Capt. Larry Frantom (United)

The author (center) jumpseats with his daughter and son-in-law.

My daughter didn’t always know that she wanted to be a pilot, but she really enjoyed the “roller coaster” ride playing in the simulators with dad. I work for United Airlines, and was a Standards Captain/Flight Manager on the 737 Fleet back in 2000. Straight and level flight didn’t really seem to amuse her; all she wanted to do was crash! After a couple of crashes, I commented that it was more challenging to try and land the airplane on its wheels rather than upside down. On her second attempt, she landed the airplane safely.

Shortly after our simulator ride, I asked Jenny if she would like to go to the airport and take an introductory flight in a real airplane. At the age of 16, she flew her first solo. She began flying after school and weekends and received her Private Pilot Certificate in 2001. I was her first passenger.

She attended Metro State University’s aviation program in Denver, Colo., and completed Commercial/Instrument, Multi-engine, Flight Instructor, Instrument Flight Instructor, and Multi-engine Flight Instructor at Centennial Airport. On various occasions I would fly with her giving her dual instruction, since I had remained current with my Flight Instructor ratings. I know that I was her toughest critic. I would tell her that as a woman pilot, she needed to be well above average so no one could ever say that the only reason she was hired was because she was a female. I wanted her to be the best and safest pilot that she could be.

During her senior year at Metro State, United Airlines resumed their internship program. Jenny was interviewed and hired as an intern in the Flight Safety Department. As an intern, she was allowed to jumpseat with me on the Boeing 767. She flew with me several times and the passengers always seemed surprised to see a young female in civilian clothes in the cockpit!

In May 2006, she graduated from Metro State University in Denver. Later that year, she was hired by SkyWest Airlines. While attending pilot training in Salt Lake City, Jenny met her future husband, James Elmer, who was also a new hire at SkyWest. I was fortunate to be able to take a few flights on her jumpseat over the next few years.

In 2010 James and Jenny were married. James upgraded to Captain at SkyWest Airlines a few years later. In 2014, James and Jenny flew together as Captain and First Officer for the first time, and I surprised them by showing up and asking for the jumpseat. Later that year, James was hired by United Airlines as a Boeing 737 First Officer. One year later, James upgraded to First Officer on the Boeing 767. In May of 2016, James and I flew to Maui Hawaii together as captain and first officer on our first flight together. We were surprised when Jenny showed up and asked for the jumpseat!!

I am not sure who was more nervous as we graded the landings.

Since then, Jenny has flown jumpseat with both of us on various occasions. James and Jenny now have a baby girl, Ayla, and my wife and I have our first grandchild. Now the only question is “Will Ayla get the flying bug”? After all, she does have her first set of wings!

The author's granddaughter has already received her first set of wings.