Women With Wings: Gustavia Cartwright

Gustavia is an artist first, and then she’s a pilot. When she was six years old, she would fill her mother’s walls with drawings of dresses and gowns – and her mother would let her.

“My mom has been very supportive through every change in my life and career,” said Envoy First Officer Gustavia Cartwright. “I’d draw all over her walls when I was kid, and she would just paint them white and let me do it all over again.”

When Gustavia left Texas A&M with a degree in bioenvironmental sciences and found a job in civil engineering, she felt like she was lacking something. Or rather something was tying her down.

Freedom of the skies

First Officer Gustavia Cartwright on the flight deck of an Embraer 175.

With the understanding and blessing of her family, Gustavia sought a career in aviation as a flight attendant for American Airlines.

“I have too much energy to sit at a desk all day,” she said. “Becoming a flight attendant seemed like the best job I could pick.”

Until the day she sat in the jump seat of a Boeing 777 during a ferry flight from Santiago, Chile. The view of the mountains, the thrust of the engine, the feeling of freedom – all hit Gustavia like a ton of bricks. The pilots flying the jet got wind of Gustavia’s background in civil engineering and encouraged her to become a pilot.

“I thought to myself, ‘why not?’” Gustavia said. “That moment was so special and amazing, I needed to become a pilot!”

So, she did.

“The best choice for me”

First Officer Gustavia Cartwright standing in front of the engine of an Embraer 175.

Through Envoy’s Cadet Program, Gustavia found flight training and a job as a Certified Flight Instructor at American Flyers in Addison, Texas. Eventually, she transferred to Coast Flight Training in San Marcos, Texas where she was promoted to Assistant Chief and finished her hours to become a First Officer.

“Envoy is the original American Eagle and a wholly-owned regional of American, so it was the best choice for me to get to mainline,” said Gustavia.

In February, at the Women in Aviation International Conference, Gustavia was given a Conditional Job Offer to fly for American. Her goal once she reaches mainline is to become a Captain on a Boeing 787 flying international routes.

First Officer Gustavia Cartwright on the flight deck of an Embraer 175.

In the meantime, Gustavia is determined to increase the number of women on the flight deck through her involvement with the Girl Scouts and the C.R. Smith Museum. Once a month, Gustavia said she loves to have her Bill Nye “The Science Guy” moment and teach meteorology to young girls at the museum.

“I feel like kids need to see people who like them in the roles they want to live,” said Gustavia. “Some of them are shocked to see that, yes, there are women pilots, and they want to take pictures with me.”

She also makes it a point to inspire them and share advice she wished she had received when she was their age. First, Gustavia suggests having a vision board to remind them of their goals.

“It’s the first thing you see when you wake up, and if you haven’t crossed something off of it, you know it’s time to get up and grind,” she said. “I also remind them to be focused and determined. Don’t let anything hold you back. You will get there.”

Return to dream

First Officer Gustavia Cartwright in the terminal of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Gustavia also reminds herself to keep her original dream alive of establishing her own clothing line and owning a storefront selling women’s clothing.

“I will revive my clothing line one day,” she said. “I have to remember that first and foremost, I’m an artist. I want to bring that back.”

As she said of herself, Gustavia “can’t just sit still,” so she’s already in the process of completing a line of outfits she’s creating at a studio in Los Angeles. One of her outfits, she hopes to make out seatbelts from a Boeing 777 – showcasing her artistry and her newfound passion for aviation.

If you don’t see Gustavia in the skies, you might catch her at Austin Fashion Week in November. A long way from drawing on her mother’s walls.

Interested in becoming a pilot? Click here to learn more about the Envoy Cadet Program. 

Already an airline pilot and want to join team Envoy? Click here!

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