March is National Women’s History Month and a reminder that every woman has a story, as do the ladies of RAI Jets! RAI Jets is a family-owned business and has been since its inception. The RAI Jets leading ladies, Kay Scohy (former wife of late RAI Jets founder Ronnie Riley), Becky (daughter of the founder) and Christina (granddaughter of the founder), all shared some of their historical memories of how the team has succeeded together. Enjoy!
KAY SCOHY, RAI Jets Administration
My earliest memories of RAI Jets took place before the company formed! My children Brian, David, and Becky had grown up at the airport and in the world of aviation, but we were so surprised when their dad and I answered the phone one Saturday morning only to be asked if we’d be interested in taking over the FBO in Sturgis. We looked at each other and started laughing. It all began our journey of raising a family in the aviation business!
I also remember the first time Brian and a high school friend took his dad and me for an airplane ride. I think we both had tears in our eyes. I remember hearing the roar of a Cessna 421 pull up next to a terminal building where I was working and realizing that it was David at the controls. Incredible. Today I hear Becky on the phone with clients (some who know about aviation and many who don’t), fielding their questions and concerns, and it still amazes me. I’m very proud of all three of them for all that they’ve accomplished.
Taking the business from an FBO to a strong jet charter company was no small feat. Starting with twin Cessnas and stepping into Cessna jets and Beech turboprops was yet another. And turning a “warehouse” hangar into a beautiful well cared-for place of business was also a well-fought struggle.
What should women in aviation know? I think women in aviation should work to their own potential without ever expecting an easy path. No exceptions will be made for them. If a woman wants to be a part of aviation or any profession for that matter, she needs to do what’s necessary and even more. Actually, I feel the same way about men and their chosen field, as well!
BECKY RILEY-BAKEMAN, President of RAI Jets
My earliest memories of RAI Jets start with Riley Aviation, which was started in 1982 by my father, mother, and uncle. I remember being in fifth grade and having lots of fun playing with my cousins at the airport or being completely bored as I watched my parents do their work there.
One of my most poignant adult memories was meeting with the family in 2009 to decide what to do with Riley Aviation. We had to close our doors due to the economy, but together with my brothers, we decided to come up with a plan to move forward and succeed…and that’s how RAI Jets was born.
Since then, I’ve witnessed so many changes in the business, from our humble beginnings to growing in structure and setting standard operating procedures. We’ve always had a great crew but now we work even more in sync, with every goal and expectation shared across the organization so that we can succeed more smoothly.
I’m the first woman president at RAI Jets, but I’d like best to be remembered for helping other people become a success. Whether it’s our employees or clients, I want to help everyone get to where they want to be. And I tell women interested in aviation to go for it! There are so many avenues to work in aviation for women. Whether she wants to stay on the ground or feels the need for speed and to be in the sky, there’s a place in aviation for any woman who wants to be there. You just need to research and find it!
CHRISTINA RILEY-KLINE, Sales & Marketing Director
My earliest memories start at a very young age. I remember waking up and having two or three helicopters parked in my backyard, or going into work with my dad, Brian Riley (we always had Mutsy, our bulldog with us too). I remember him letting me turn wrenches or wipe down planes in the hangar, and of course traveling with him all over to give helicopter rides. When I was older, I started working the helicopter rides every summer. I still miss doing it! It was hard work (especially on a HOT day) but it was fun and I loved every minute of the time I got to spend with my dad. Helicopters are my true love!
Our family and employees have always been close, and I remember so many cookouts, birthdays, family celebrations, and other parties where all the pilots were there. I would say I was raised by “a village” of good folks in aviation. I still think that our company is very family-oriented, and our employees are like family.
I technically lead the third generation of this company and those are some big shoes to fill. I have so much to learn, but I hope to continue the legacy. When I was a kid, I understood that we flew people in planes, it was an on-demand kind of job, and therefore, my dad needed to be gone a lot. But now that I’m older and working at RAI Jets full time, I understand how rewarding it is when you have a happy customer, or you’re able to deliver a medical team and an organ cross county in a matter of hours to save a life. It makes everything worthwhile!
I would tell women interested in aviation not to be afraid of the “man’s” industry. I had considered becoming a Blackhawk Pilot but never pursued it. I wish I had! My mom was a Huey Pilot in the Army in the 80’s (and then flew Blackhawks). She paved the way then for all the women today to be more accepted into this industry. But I enjoy working with my customers, I know I am good at what I do, and I love that my job allows me to use my OCD as an advantage!
There are so many sides to aviation that many women never consider as a career– Scheduler/Dispatcher, Pilot, Maintenance, Military, Medical, Flight Nurse, etc. And there are so many women in this world and in our future that will continue to change the aviation industry – so it’s important for us all to be strong and be proud… and to make that difference!
Happy National Women’s History month to those in aviation and beyond!
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