SANTA BARBARA Airport Commissioner and long-time community member Capt. Karen M. Kahn received the esteemed Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award during a ceremony held Tuesday night at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
Viewed as the Federal Aviation Administration’s most prestigious award, Capt. Kahn was honored as a federally certified pilot who has exhibited professionalism, skill and aviation expertise. She spent more than 35 years as a pilot and was one of the very first female pilots ever hired by a U.S. commercial airline, then Continental Airlines. Since her retirement from commercial aviation, Capt. Kahn has been working as a youth activist with local nonprofit “A Different Point of View,” helping advance the lives of youth and young women through exposure to the field of aviation.
“When youth see Captain Kahn in her captain’s uniform and she engages with them, they receive the lasting message that the sky really is the limit,” ADPOV Executive Director Ali Cortes said in a statement. “At each step of her career, she blazed trails for aviators of all kinds to achieve their goals. She continues doing this with every young person who has the chance to meet her.”
Before beginning her career in 1977, Capt. Kahn gave flight instructions at Sierra Academy in Northern California, and operated her own weekend ground school instructing private, commercial and instrument courses. She previously held ratings as an Airline Transport Pilot, including type ratings on the Boeing 757/767 and McDonnell-Douglas MD-80.
Capt. Kahn was the first woman to be type-rated in a Lockheed JetStar. Her other ratings include: Certificated Flight Instructor for Single Engine and Multi-Engine aircraft, Flight Engineer, Turbojet, Seaplane, Helicopter, and the coveted Master Certificated Flight Instructor designation from the National Association of Flight Instructors.