Family of Female Flyers

A mother and daughter duo are making waves in the sky and recently won premier FBO in December, recognized by Phillips Petroleum.

Linda Rydstrom began as a receptionist (at the now West Jet Air Center) right out of high school, 3 years later she became a flight instructor and then a commercial and airline transport pilot. Now she is majority owner of WestJet. With a lot of hard work, it’s been a career that has led her and her family to many interesting experiences.

Rydstrom says, “The people that you meet. The career that it enables you to fly, when I was flying full-time, to be able to fly all over and see so many interesting things, Recently we had the privilege of hosting Vice President Pence in one of our corporate hangers ,and so that was really a big thrill. We’ve seen Presidents and Vice Presidents over the years, but to actually be a host for one was really a privilege for us.”

And as Linda and her husband step away from the forefront of the business, their daughter Miranda is stepping in to take over one day. Linda says she would take Miranda in her car seat as a baby along with her during flights, she grew up in the industry. Miranda became a pilot then flight instructor and nearly 3 years ago she began the first flight school in town, Plane Training, LLC.

Miranda Maleki, Vice President of WestJet says, “When we were learning how to fly there was nothing here, we couldn’t learn how to fly here and you couldn’t rent an airplane here. So we said there’s got to be somebody in the community that would want to fly or want to rent a plane, so we bought one and before we know it we had four because the demand was much higher than we anticipated and it’s still is. I’m still amazed by how many people that are coming out and learning how to fly for different reasons here in Rapid City.”

WestJet is now one of the few FBOs that are female owned. With Linda and Miranda as majority owners, they are looking forward to setting an example for women in the industry.

Rystrom says, “Aviation is still primarily male-dominated, I think female pilots account for 5 to 7% of the overall total. We have our fair share of struggles, but we’re just gonna keep pursuing.

“You just have to do the same thing as your male colleagues. But I think the numbers are going up, it’s never gonna be 50/50. Women who do want to do it [be pilots] will realize that they can.”” says Maleki.

The family is making strides in the aviation business, but is also making an impact on the ground. For the last 10 years they have donated gifts to local children at Canyon Lake Elementary School during Christmas as well as supporting youth and family services with the annual kids fair.

Photo Courtesy WestJet

Rydstrom adds, “I just feel that if ever we can get some positive influence in the kids when they’re young, that it would have the most impact. So when you go to see the event at Canyon Lake specifically, it just does it a world of good so that’s the Christmas for us we don’t need anything else.”

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Categories: Faces in the Crowd, Local News