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Nadia Kountoures: One of the nation's youngest pilots

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Greek-American Nadia Kountoures, one of the nation's youngest and female pilots, channeled her passion for airplanes and flying into a career.

Nadia Kountoures has many characteristics that some individuals spend years striving to achieve. She's a woman filled with passion and determination, exhibits extreme discipline, and is highly intelligent. As a corporate pilot and the above qualities are an absolute must for her line of work.

The daughter of Chicago Businessman Alex Kountoures and National Hellenic Museum's Development Director Marianne Vallas Kountoures, Nadia Kountoures was born and raised in the Chicago area. She's always had a passion for airplanes and flying. While most little girls had posters of boy bands and television stars in their rooms, Nadia had posters of airplanes and jets.

She always knew she wanted to be a pilot, beginning in grade school. When she was 9, her parents took her to the Chicago Air & Water Show. As soon as she saw that first plane buzzing by, she knew wanted to be when she grew up — and what she was going to do with the rest of her life.

While growing up, Nadia would watch movies about flying. She continuously dreamed about flying.

"As soon as I found out I could attend college in-state so I could become a pilot, my dream became a reality."

Nadia started flying airplanes when she was 18. She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she studied aviation. She then became a flight instructor and immediately upon graduation, began teaching students to fly.

Studying aviation in college wasn't easy for Nadia.

"The curriculum was so intense, with not only full course work, but with flying lesson requirements several times a week."

The curriculum was also difficult in the sense that the grading was on a different scale. Where 75% is considered a pass for most courses in college, in aviation courses it's considered a fail. Nadia had to always strive to score at least a 95% and get the "A".

"It was very challenging for me but in a good way."

Social activities while in college, were almost impossible to engage in and definitely not a priority for Nadia at that time.

"It was impossible to go out on a Friday night and be at flying lessons at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning. You had to be awake and alert so you were able to fly safely."

Not only did Nadia have to demonstrate extreme discipline and focus to complete her courses and flying requirements, but she also had to be extremely diligent in sticking to her goals. Thankfully she had the support of her family to keep her focused, as well as the support of a core group of friends that majored in aviation.

Nadia was one of only a handful of females in her class at the university. While this never presented itself as an additional challenge, it was something that had always struck her.

"Being a female, I never really faced any additional challenges then what men faced, other then being a minority in numbers. Freshman year, 2006, only a handful of females to began the program. Four years later, of a class of 40, only two were girls. They only worked up to certain ratings, for example, instrument rating. They then ended up transferring to other degrees. Overall, the aviation industry is a male-dominated industry."

However, it wasn't only the women students that were transferring out of the program — men transferred out just as frequently. Nadia explained why.

"It's intense. There's a lot of information that you need to know and have committed to memory while you're flying a plane. Knowledge of airspace, air traffic control procedures, how the aircraft operates systems-wise; you need to know every detail of the plane during each phase of flight. Not to mention speed, full flap and landing procedures. It's really hard."

Not only are there very few females in the industry, there are even fewer Greeks in the field.

"It would be nice to see more Greeks pursuing aviation as a career."

Nadia's age also makes her very unique; 28 is considered extremely young for a corporate pilot, and a 23 year-old coperate pilot (the age she started) is even more unheard of.

In 2011, Nadia began flying a turboprop aircraft, as a contractor pilot for Gogo Air, an aviation tech company providing internet and inflight entertainment services for airlines. A year later, the company expanded, and hired her as a corporate pilot, to fly a business jet. Today she's flying a Boeing 737, and flies internationally.

"It's great for my career because there's a lot more aviation procedures that need to be learned. It's an exciting milestone. Especially crossing the Atlantic Ocean. This is a big step in my career."

Among her favorite locations to fly to is Anchorage, Alaska.

"My current favorite place to fly is the Pacific Northwest — to Seattle and Portland. I love flying into mountainous areas, and being close to the Pacific at the same time when flying in."

And while the majority of her flights are uneventful, typical challenges, usually weather based, arise frequently.

"We once had to deviate our flight plan to avoid large thunderstorms several times. When you do that you have to make changes to the flight route. And at the same time, make sure you have enough fuel to cover those changes."

She said that airports also vary in their level of difficulty when it comes to landing at them. San Francisco and San Diego are two examples of airports that are considered difficult to land. Nadia has landed at both. One of the most unique landings she's experienced was in northern Canada at an airport located in a remote town named Iqaluit. Its high latitude, remoteness, snow covered terrain and average temperatures of about -30 degrees, made for a memorable experience.

Nadia's soul-driven purpose, clear to her from a very young age, allows her to not only fully love what she does, but to also do it with an extremely high level of skill. The ability of Nadia's parents to identify her passion at such a young age, support it, along with Nadia's clarity and determination, allowed her to excel at her dream job.

As for the future? Nadia is flying high. She loves her job and other than seeing "where the skies take her" will continue to do what she loves the most.