UND Today

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The sky is no limit

From the Klosterman family come true tales of the air, starring UND-trained pilots who received the Annette Klosterman Memorial Scholarship

UND graduate and Delta pilot Rose Kirby sits in the cockpit of an Airbus 350, just before taking off for a nonstop flight from Detroit to Seoul, South Korea. Kirby was the 2011 recipient of the Annette L. Klosterman Memorial Aviation Scholarship. Photo courtesy of Rose Kirby and the Klosterman family.

Editor’s note: You can search UND across time and from one end of campus to another, and you will not find a more powerful and inspiring story than that of the Klostermans: Annette, her brother Peter and their parents, Jim and Jan.

Jim relates their story below, and for more background, readers are invited to review this May 2022 story from UND Today: Aviation safety lab would make its namesake proud.

Jim Klosterman keeps in regular touch with UND, and in one recent email, he told another in a series of remarkable stories about the lives and careers of recipients of the Annette L. Klosterman Memorial Aviation Scholarship. At UND Today’s request, Jim turned that email into a story for this publication; and it’s with tremendous gratitude that we present this story today.

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By Jim Klosterman

Since 2008, my wife Jan, our son, Peter, and I have sponsored a scholarship within the Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND, in loving memory of our daughter, Annette. The scholarship specifically is designated for a woman majoring in Commercial Aviation who demonstrates the same passion and work ethic that Annette did during her four years enrolled at UND.

Annette graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2007 with a degree in Commercial Aviation and a minor in Economics. As with many Commercial Aviation graduates, she stayed on at UND following graduation as a full-time flight instructor to build up her flight time. This is a normal post-graduation activity because, as readers may know, pilots seeking employment with a regional airline must accumulate at least 1,000 hours of flight experience before they can be hired.

But it was only five months after her graduation in 2007 that Annette and her student were killed when their Piper Seminole aircraft collided with a flock of geese over central Minnesota on a night flight returning to Grand Forks. As any parent can imagine, it was a devastating blow, and our world was turned upside down overnight!

However, due to Annette’s incredibly positive experience at UND, we felt compelled to honor her by establishing an endowment to help other women pursuing the same passion of flight.

Since 2008, we personally have met all 17 scholarship recipients (some years have had more than one recipient) and maintain regular contact with most of them. Jan and I refer to them as our “adopted flight daughters,” and it has been an absolute joy to see these women excel in an industry long dominated by men.

The majority of the women have found their way into the commercial airline business, becoming first officers and then captains for both regional and major airlines. Others are flying cargo jets, a bush plane on floats in Alaska and an F-16 fighter in the U.S. Air Force. There’s also an FAA inspector in the mix, as well as another who designs satellites at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We are so proud of them all! And to give UND Today readers a sense of their amazing stories, what follows are updates that we received recently from just two of the scholarship recipients who graduated several years apart.

Christine Benson, a UND graduate and pilot for JetBlue, stands with her mother, Pamela, a JetBlue captain with more than 40 years of flying experience. Christine was the 2018 recipient of the Annette L. Klosterman Memorial Aviation Scholarship. Photo courtesy of Christine Benson and the Klosterman family.

Like mother, like daughter

Christine Benson, who hails from Pennsylvania, was our scholarship recipient from 2018 and graduated from UND with a Commercial Aviation degree in December 2019. Christine was well-acquainted with the airline industry from a very early age, having grown up in a home where both of her parents were commercial pilots.

Her father retired three years ago after a career with American Airlines, and her mother is currently a captain with JetBlue Airlines with 40 years of flying experience under her belt.

After graduating from UND, Christine stayed on as a flight instructor to build the necessary hours of flight experience. By the way, students at most flight schools must accumulate a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight experience before they can be hired by a commercial airline. But flight training at UND is so in-depth and rigorous that in accordance with FAA regulations, airlines can accept UND-trained pilots who have a minimum of 1,000 hours of flight experience.

You see, training at UND goes far beyond just learning how to take off and land safely. Mandated courses include not only flight training (in both single and multi-engine aircraft) but also Aviation Safety, Flight Physiology, Aerospace Law, International and Long-Range Navigation, Gas Turbine Engines, Aerodynamics, Aircraft Systems, Meteorology, Air Traffic Control and other subjects that I undoubtedly forgot.

Christine was hired by Republic Airways in mid-2021 and began flying an Embraer 175, a regional jet that typically seats up to 80 passengers. More recently, Christine made the jump to JetBlue, the nation’s fifth-largest airline.

At JetBlue, she was able to immediately take the yoke of the Embraer 195, a larger version of the 175, which typically seats up to 105 passengers and carries a price tag of $50 million to $60 million. I wonder if she has a license plate frame on the back of her car that says, “My Other Car is a Jet.”

So awesome for a young lady who graduated from college just three years ago! The professionalism of the training at UND produces pilots who are as well-equipped as any to enter the cockpit.

Above is a photo that Christine recently shared with us. It shows Christine with her mother, Pam, a senior captain in her own right (as I mentioned) with JetBlue.

Understandably, it’s Christine’s dream to fly together with her mother in the cockpit. But in fact — although Christine may not fully understand this, not being a parent herself — it’s probably even a bigger dream for her parents!

Christine will need to fly the Embraer for at least one more year before she can apply to be trained on the Airbus and be eligible to fly with her mother. That would be a first for any of our 17 scholarship recipients, and we look forward to it.

Rose Kirby, a UND graduate who’s now a pilot for Delta Airlines, stands beneath an Airbus A320/321 during a pre-flight check. Kirby was the 2011 recipient of the Annette Klosterman Memorial Scholarship at UND. Photo courtesy of Rose Kirby and the Klosterman family.

Smooth skies over the Pacific

Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but I must repeat that the scholarship recipients’ success after graduating from UND has been phenomenal. Here’s another example: Earlier this year, we received an update from Rose Kirby, our daughter’s scholarship recipient from 2011 (gosh, where has the time gone?).

Rose has been an absolute joy over the years to keep in contact with, as we have followed her career after she received her world-class education in Commercial Aviation from UND.

After graduating from UND and not being a fan of the infamous North Dakota winters, Rose relocated to Phoenix to continue flight instruction to build flight hours. After gaining this experience over two years, she got her first commercial job, which saw her flying sightseeing passengers over the Grand Canyon and other tourist attractions in the Southwest.

Then, Rose applied for her first regional airline job and was hired by GoJet in 2015. As a GoJet pilot, she flew around the country in a Canadair Regional Jet, which — depending on the model — seats 60 to 90 passengers.

After a few years with GoJet, Rose was able to move up to the major airlines. She was hired by Delta in early 2017. You may have flown with her in the cockpit recently, as Rose has spent the past five years flying an Airbus 320, a $100 million aircraft that typically has a passenger capacity of about 160.

But Rose is hoping to fly internationally, and the A320 was not designed with the needed range to cross the oceans. So, Rose applied for international flying with Delta; and, she recently told us, her application was accepted!

Rose now has completed her training in the Airbus 350. Designed with long distances in mind, the aircraft can carry up to 400 passengers and fly up to 8,700 nautical miles or about 10,000 statute (think land) miles on one tank of gas.

This state-of-the-art aircraft just started commercial service in the past five or six years and carries a price tag of just more than $300 million.

Imagine that: being out of college for only about 10 years and being responsible for flying such a machine! I’m trying to imagine $300 million, and I’m reduced to putting it in household financial terms. So, I’m thinking, if that was a typical 30-year mortgage with 20% down and an interest rate at 5.5%, that would equal monthly payments of $1.36 million.

You know, Rose used to send photos of herself standing next to her aircraft, and now it is photos of her standing under her aircraft. Above is a recent photo of Rose — reprinted with her permission — standing beneath an Airbus 320/321 during a pre-flight check. This is the aircraft that she’s flown for the past five years before moving up to the Airbus 350.

How many other women in the world could be featured in such a photo?

The second photo of Rose is the lead photo of this story; it shows her in the cockpit of the Airbus 350 before a nonstop flight from Detroit to Seoul. Flights this long actually require a crew of four pilots with a separate rest area per FAA regulations; to me, it looks like the cockpit is almost large enough to set a buffet table for transoceanic flights.

This photo montage honoring Annette Klosterman is part of a poster that describes her life and legacy, and that hangs on the wall outside the Annette Klosterman Aviation Safety and Data Analytics Lab at UND. Click on the image for a high-resolution image of the full poster. Photo montage by Heather Schuler/UND.

With gratitude and love

To repeat, the success of these UND grads has been made possible by the tremendous and professional training they received at UND. It has been a true joy for our family to watch their success after graduating, and we easily can say that sponsoring the scholarship in our daughter’s memory has been one of the most gratifying activities we have participated in.

To those who have been gracious enough to contribute to this scholarship, please know that your generosity is indeed bringing about real-world results! These young ladies repeatedly have told us not only how meaningful the financial assistance is to them, but also how encouraging it is that people whom they’ve never met are willing to make an investment on their behalf. We are so proud of them all!

Jim, Jan and Peter Klosterman