Air Force Veteran Finds Inspiration in Helicopters

Born in California and raised in Sandpointe, Idaho, Amanda Kilgore developed a love of the outdoors and an adventurous side, inspired by the rugged outdoors of the northwest. The aviation bug caught her at a young age. “I was 5 years old when I went to my first air show with my dad and I got to sit in my first helicopter. He’s always loved aviation and planes, and it just kind of rubbed off on me. I’ve always been amazed by flight, and since that day at the air show I knew I wanted to fly whether it was for fun or as a career,” said Amanda.

Amanda Kilgore, already dreaming!


In Pursuit of Challenge

Seeking challenge, the U.S. Air Force Veteran looked at a fixed wing school in Denver, CO., but quickly realized that airplanes were not for her. “I was looking for something to inspire me. I didn’t really find airplanes to be all that exciting for the most part, and not to “diss” anyone but it seemed too easy, and I needed a challenge. Plus going back to the day I decided I wanted to be a pilot, I just knew it had to be helicopters,” remarked Amanda.

“The day I came to Guidance Aviation was the day I knew I wanted to become a helicopter pilot. I did an intro flight with Jesse Kirkwood, CFI-I, and he showed me just how awesome helicopters were and I realized that helicopters were the ultimate form of transportation – you can go anywhere in a helicopter. The possibilities are endless for careers, and it provides the opportunity to travel the world while giving you this incredible adrenaline rush,” said Amanda.

“I found Guidance through my mentor in the Air Force. After speaking with the student services representatives at Guidance, I knew this was the place. It is challenging. Things like adjusting to the fast paced course and staying ahead with flying. Also, having the confidence to tell myself that I can do this, and staying motivated each day to be the best,” remarked Amanda.

Amanda Kilgore catching the flying bug in the back of a helicopter.

Becoming a Helicopter Pilot

When asked about one of her most memorable experiences during her flight training, Amanda said, “After finishing PVT 1 (Private Pilot 1), I flew to an area north of Sedona with my instructor. As we flew above a canyon with beautiful red rocks, I could just picture myself flying helicopters for the rest of my life. Getting to see beautiful places from a perspective not many people have the opportunity to see is a special feeling. I felt like a helicopter pilot that day for the first time; a realization of a goal that I had for so long was actually coming true. I never want to let go of that feeling.”

Amanda and her flight instructor flying over Prescott, AZ.

The Secret Squirrel

Referring to herself as a “secret squirrel”, Amanda served 5-1/2 years in the U.S. Air Force, serving as an Intelligence Analyst, working with Airborne Reconnaissance missions, Combat Search and Rescue teams, and various Intelligence agencies.

“When I moved to Prescott, Arizona to come to Guidance Aviation, I didn’t know what to expect or even if I would be good at flying helicopters. I quit a well paying job that made me miserable, packed my things in a Uhaul with my dog and left everything else behind. Coming here and attending this school has challenged me in every aspect of my life, and I do not regret it. I started with zero background in aviation and have learned information that I will carry with me the rest of my career. For me, this wasn’t about pursuing a degree, or getting to fly helicopters everyday (which is still pretty awesome). It was about being happy with my life choices, pursuing a lifelong goal, achieving these rather large dreams that I have and living the life I’ve always wanted. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. The more I learn and fly, the more excited I become for getting out there and flying all over the world to wherever the wind blows me… literally,” remarked Amanda.

Living the dream.

A Mentor, Father, and Friend Provide Support

She credits a number of people who have supported and inspired her. “My dad, Mark. He’s always believed in me, knowing I would do great things one day and always is so proud to hear of my accomplishments. Without him I wouldn’t have the love for aviation that I have. My mentor Pat Needham.  I served with him in the Air Force and he’s always helped me, even since getting out of the Air Force. He always encourages me to follow through and to give my all –  to be the best. And, my awesome boyfriend / best friend Travis, whom I rely on day in and day out. He is my study partner and my emotional support to help me get through this because it is extremely stressful at times and having someone to go through this with helps.”

As of June, 2015, Amanda is training for her instrument rating with Chris Tatum, CFI-I, and hopes one day to fly EMS in the Pacific Northwest.

Amanda, already hugging helicopters!