Local News

Pilots Of Fatal Flight Came To Charlotte To Boost Careers

Posted January 9, 2003

— When she was a young schoolgirl in Texas, Katie Leslie was always telling her family, friends and teachers that she was going to grow up to be a pilot.

At 25, Leslie was captain of the US Airways Express flight that crashed into a hangar as it was taking off Wednesday from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

The cause of the crash, which killed Leslie, first officer Jonathan Gibbs and all 19 passengers, was under investigation on Thursday.

Leslie graduated from Louisiana Tech University's professional aviation program in 1999.

Leslie's former college professor said Thursday that, despite a lofty career goal to succeed in a male-dominated industry, Leslie always maintained a cheerful attitude even when she encountered antagonism.

"There's still some resentment out there that requires some female pilots to do a little more than their male counterparts to prove themselves," said Dale Sistrunk, the head of the Department of Professional Aviation at Louisiana Tech.

Following graduation, Leslie served as a flight instructor at the school for nine months, according to Sistrunk, then left to enter commuter flying.

"She was a good student, with a lot of perseverance, and very dedicated," he said. "We hired her as an instructor, which indicates how I felt about her."

Leslie, a native of Arlington, Texas, was a member of the Tech Flight Team that competed in air shows, winning several awards. Her brother, Bradley Leslie, is a freshman in the school's aviation program, Sistrunk said.

Flying also was a family affair for Gibbs, who started taking lessons at age 19 after becoming interested in aviation while growing up in northern California. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1997.

Gibbs, 26, went to work for Air Midwest in 2001. He was laid off after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

He began flying for Air Midwest out of Charlotte in May 2002.

Family members said he loved to fly so much that he convinced his father, Skip, and brother, George, to get their pilot's license. He also enjoyed scuba diving, kayaking, mountain biking and hiking.

His father said the last time he saw Jonathan was on Christmas Day.

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