Aeronautical Science Major Prepares for the Flight of Her Life

Chesapeake Gustin, a Florida Tech aeronautical science major, is spending a year getting ready for the biggest flight of her life.

The junior was hand-picked by world-renowned pilot and STEM education advocate, Capt. Judy Rice, to be her co-pilot for the 41st Annual Air Race Classic in June.

This four-day, 2600-mile flight from Frederick, Md. to Santa Fe, N.M., is open to just 50 women. Pilots and their teams strategize and plan around weather and terrain. They are also limited by the number of hours in a day, since flying can only be done in daylight hours.

Choosing the best navigator for the job

Capt. Rice knew she’d need to choose the best navigator for the job. After an audit of all the aviation students at Florida Tech, Gustin was chosen to join her in the cockpit for the race.

“FIT is one of the finest flight schools there is, and I’ve been all over the world,” Capt. Rice said. “So Chesapeake is the best co-pilot in the world.”

Capt. Rice has struggled with dyslexia her whole life, so navigation has always been a challenge. As an aeronautical science major, Gustin just happens to be really good at navigation, so it was a perfect match.

“I’m excited,” Gustin said. “The whole adventure of it and flying across country and meeting new people is exciting.”

Mission to inspire girls to become pilots

Capt. Rice’s and Gustin’s partnership has grown beyond this one race. Their main mission is to inspire and educate girls who are destined to be pilots, themselves.

“We want to open minds and open eyes,” Capt. Rice said. “I didn’t fly until I was 40. So my message to all is if you have a dream and it’s a good dream, don’t let anyone say you can’t do it.”

A part of their outreach is Girls in Aviation Day, sponsored by the Women in Aviation Space Coast Florida Tech Chapter. Gustin has helped plan the day and is speaking with Capt. Rice at the event.

Girls in Aviation Day

Girls in Aviation Day will take place at the FIT Aviation complex on Sept. 24 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Although it’s meant to inspire girls, the event is open to anyone at any age, who is interested in learning more about aviation.

Children and adults will be able to meet and greet aviation professionals, operate a flight simulator, design an airport, plan a cross-country flight and hear Capt. Rice’s inspirational story.

Aeronautical science major, Gustin sees this event and the race as just another opportunity to further her dream of a life in aviation.

“I was just looking for something different,” Gustin said. “I knew I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk. If you want to do something, go for it. There’s nothing stopping you.”

If you’d like to register for Girls in Aviation Day, call Macie Grant at 913-220-1573 or e-mail If you’d like to help Capt. Rice and Gustin on their journey to the Air Race Classic, check out for updates and more information.


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