Like Father, Like Daughter

By F/O Stephanie Layman (Spirit)

F/O Stephanie Layman (Spirit) with her father, Capt. Jim Layman, a pilot for American Airlines.

Like father, like daughter. This phrase has become my recent reality, and I couldn’t be more excited and proud that this is how I can describe my life.

Aviation truly runs in the family. My grandfather, Roger Layman, was an electrical engineer for Boeing for 30 years, and my mom was a station manager for a small regional airline called GPExpress. She always had a love for aviation when she was younger. And my dad, Jim Layman, decided halfway through a master’s degree that he wanted to make his part-time job of flight instructing his full-time career and shift toward a job with the airlines. He was eventually hired by GP-Express, where he met my mom. He was hired by America West in 1996, and today he flies for American Airlines.

Halfway through college, I decided that I wanted this lifestyle for myself. I advised my mom of my new plan—I wanted to become a flight attendant. She encouraged me instead to become a pilot, just like dad! Although my dad was a little skeptical at first as I had never expressed any interest in flying, it only took a little persuading to get him on board. I took my first flight lesson the summer before my junior year and absolutely fell in love. I quickly achieved my private pilot’s license and continued my flying lessons while in college. 

Fast-forward a few years and I’m a first officer at Mesa Airlines, flying the CRJ900 out of Phoenix, Ariz. I had some very memorable moments in Phoenix with my dad. One day early on, we both pushed away within minutes of each other—I can still remember taxiing and seeing his A321. I remember thinking, “Wow, I finally made it—I’m sharing the same office as my dad.” He was able to watch me take off that day, something he says he will never forget. We’ve had numerous occasions like this—coming or going and hearing each other on the radios, or passing by each other in the terminal or taxiways.

Last Christmas we both had to work but still had a special holiday moment when we heard each other on the radio and “twinkled” our lights at each other. I’ve had a few times where I’ve followed my dad in on an arrival, again thinking to myself how awesome that I get to share these moments with him.

This past winter I accepted a first officer position with Spirit Airlines and am now flying the same airplane as my dad, the Airbus A320. This has truly been a dream come true for us and has been such a heartfelt and special journey. Entering the Part 121 world was awesome and great to share with my dad, but now to be flying the same plane as him…words can’t even describe how close this has brought us. It’s taken a lot of hard work, motivation, and dedication to get to where I am today, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am without the support I’ve had from my parents.