By Kimmie Collins
May 14, 2019
State Gives Her Wings
Brittany Danko, ’17, can fly.
A Corydon, Ind. native, Danko began charting the course to her future career after attending a flight program in high school. “Once I started flying, I knew I never wanted to do anything else,” she said. Her flight path led her to Indiana State, where she studied professional aviation flight technology and aviation management. “I chose Indiana State for what it had to offer,” she said. “It has an excellent flight program. It stuck out for the small class sizes and kind professors.”
Indiana State welcomed Danko aboard, allowing her to spread her wings through a variety of campus organizations. “I was a certified flight instructor for the university after I had made it through the flight portion of my program,” she said. “I was lucky enough to get field experience every single day. I was promoted to be a senior flight instructor. This really gave me a lot of freedom to take on new projects and implement ideas. I learned how to lead by example, which was much different than my old leadership style.”
In addition to her experience with the flight academy, Danko was also an active member of an aviation business fraternity. When her feet were on the ground, she served as a resident assistant for two years and participated in the Miss ISU pageant.
Danko really began to soar during her time at State. “My first ‘real-world’ flying experience came when I was chosen for the Air Race Classic team,” she said. Dating back to 1929, the Air Race Classic is a national competition in which 60 all-female teams fly across the country. Danko’s team placed in the top 10.
“I would have never been able to compete without the support of the aviation flight department,” Danko said. “I was lucky to be able to race for three years while at ISU. This was the first time I was making serious decisions about weather, fuel and other important aspects of flight. It still helps me to this day.”
Along her journey, Indiana State faculty stewarded Danko’s growth. “My favorite thing about State is that people care. Everyone wants you to succeed,” she said. “If I was struggling, I always knew I could talk to my professor or flight instructor for guidance. It felt like a second family to me.”
Faculty members encouraged Danko to add her second degree in aviation management, but their expertise guided her in other aspects of her life as well. “One of my favorite things about ISU was my relationship with the faculty and staff members,” she said. “I was fortunate to have several teachers who made a big impact. Mr. Welsh really helped my overall confidence and understanding of subjects. Captain Swindell, a current United pilot, gave me a real inside look at what was going on with the industry. Dr. Allen really helped me understand my rights as a pilot and Mr. Ball, an Indianapolis air traffic controller, gave me a deep understanding of the air traffic control industry from their point of view.”
“What was special about ISU was that I also had several professors who were not aviation related that ended up making a big impact,” she added. “Ms. Mullen, a current communications professor, really showed me how to present myself with passion and drive. Mr. Carr, who is no longer at ISU, really advanced my writing skills, along with the ability to analyze the deeper meaning of literature.”
Danko emphasizes the impact that her time at State had on her professional life. “Each of these people, and many more, really shaped me to become the person I am today,” she said. “I was pretty immature when I came here as a freshman. I quickly learned that if I wanted to do what I loved, I need to start to grow up and become much more responsible. I was lucky to have great role models to show me how to do just that.”
After Danko’s career was cleared for take-off at her graduation in December 2017, she has flown to success. She now serves as a first officer for Republic Airways, but she will land into a new role as a captain within the next two years.
Danko’s job has her spirits flying high. “I’m loving my career, and each day is so different,” she said. “Some days we will be in Canada and other days Mexico. We do a lot of New York and Charlotte flying, but we go all over the country which is fun. I love working in a flight crew, and I learn a lot from everyone I work with.”
“Find what you love to do and the work will come more easily to you,” she advises. “I wasn’t a good student in high school. I had very little motivation. That all changed once I started flying. Because I loved what I did in college, I was able to graduate with a 3.97 GPA.”
Although Danko has graduated, she still holds a special place in her heart for her alma mater. “ISU was my home,” she said. “It made me into the person I am today in every single way possible. I was able to grow up and become more confident but also humble, driven and passionate about everything I did. It gave me everything I have.”