Published November 02, 2017
Capt. (Separated) Kathi Durst began breaking barriers for women in 1977 when, at age 17, she became one of the first female Air Force Academy cadets. She graduated in the top 10 percent of her class, the second academy class to include women. After commissioning, she attended pilot training and served as a T-38 instructor pilot. Durst, whose father was a fighter pilot in the Korean and Vietnam wars, progressed as an instructor pilot, giving check rides to T-38 students, leading all T-38 academics and serving as her squadron’s executive officer before separating from the Air Force in 1988. After separating, Durst went to work for American Airlines, eventually becoming their first female chief pilot, in charge of their largest hub located in Dallas, Texas. Durst uses her experience to also mentor and lead as an active member in both the National Gay Pilots Association and Women in Aviation International Organization. She credits her success to the courage and triumphs of the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II and to her mother, who always told her she could do anything she wanted to do.