Miyukiko "Koko" Kostelny

Airline: United Airlines
Crew Position: First Officer
Aircraft: B737
Domicile: Guam

What is the year and location of the flight school you attended?

I first had my discovery flight in Guam when I was 16, and took a few lessons on the island.  Then I went to the University of Central Missouri, where I acquired many of my initial flight ratings and obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in aviation science.  I then furthered my education with a Master’s Degree in aviation safety.

What airplanes have you flown during your career?

I have flown: a King Air, CRJ 200/700/900, and Boeing 737.  As for GA aircraft, tailwheels, single engines, and multi engines.  I hope to get my sea plane rating next!


Have you had/have any mentors throughout the years?

Yes, so many!  I was first able to connect with many female pilots at The Women in Aviation Conference when I attended in college.  While also at the WAI Conference, I learned of the existence of ISA+21.  I thought it was neat that I could one day join an organization where others would totally understand me and my future life as an airline pilot.

While I was building hours, a lot of my mentors kept me motivated and told me to keep my eye on the prize.  No matter how hot and humid it got in a 172, or frustrating it was juggling a Master’s Degree and flight instructing, I knew the hard work would pay off one day.

When I got hired at a regional airline, I joined ISA+21 right away as a full time member.  Through ISA+21, I was able to gain so many great mentors that helped me in various ways.  I had mentors that helped me prepare for a type rating scholarship interview (which I was fortunate enough to receive a Boeing 737 type rating through Women in Aviation, International and American Airlines).  I also had mentors help me when I was going through upgrade as well as when I was a brand new captain.  The advice I have received over the years has helped me make it this far – even the advice on ways to meal prep or the best skin care after a long flight!

I was even fortunate enough to have two of my good friends and mentors, Captain Pamela Perdue and Captain Tara Cook (also ISA+21 members) pin my wings on at United!  It came a full circle because Pam was the one that signed me up for ISA+21.  Even now at the majors, I have a group of wonderful women to rely on with anything aviation related.

How did you get interested in aviation?

My father’s aviation career in The United States Marine Corps first inspired me.  As a military child, I grew up most of my life in Iwakuni, Japan.  Every time I looked up to the sky, I saw an aircraft.  To me, it was an airshow every day.  When we traveled, my parents encouraged me to visit the flight deck and say hi whether it was a military flight or a commercial airline flight.  As a little girl, I even got to watch a walk around and observed pilots plan a flight across the Pacific!  Those events added to my excitement and sealed the deal into my love for flying after my first discovery flight over my home island of Guam.

Do you have any future aviation goals you hope to achieve?

I want to fly the variety of aircraft at my airline – since I started on the 737, I would like to fly the 757 and 767 next.  After that, I’d love to complete the Boeing series at my company – 777 and 787!  Once I get some widebody flying done, I’d love to return to the Guam base as a captain.

Do you live in base or commute?

I live in base!  It’s a really quick drive to work, and then I park and walk under breezy palm trees to get to the terminal.

What have been some recent challenges you have faced?

In the last year, the aviation world has been drastically hit by the world-wide pandemic.  I’ve gone from flying a lot each month to various locations throughout the Pacific and Asia to very little flying and limited locations. The hardest part with the lack of flying is staying proficient and longing for the skies.  Luckily, my father has always told me to keep my skills sharp – and I have lived through my Girl Scout motto “Always Prepared”, so I am able to keep a positive mindset through reviewing my procedures for when the flying does pick up.  It’s also been pretty amazing to work for a company that has been essential in leading the fight against the virus through flying medical supplies and health care personnel.  In addition to that, my pilot group and mentors have been wonderful in offering advice and positivity.  Turbulence doesn’t last forever, and I look forward to spending a lot more time in the skies soon.

What would you say to girls looking to become an airline pilot?

Don’t give up on your dream.  Enjoy the flying, and don’t be discouraged if you hit roadblocks while in training.  One of my favorite proverbs is “Fall seven times, stand up eight”.  It’s important to learn from trials and mistakes, but it’s even more important to come back stronger.  Surround yourself by others that will lift you up and empower you.  I can’t even describe how much ISA+21 has been there for me – through the good and the bad.  Keep your chin up no matter what, because the view above the clouds is worth it!

What do you feel is a benefit to being an ISA+21 member?

The never ending support and sisterhood.  Our camaraderie is so special and unique because we understand each other.  We can celebrate a success (like Captain’s Club!), or support each other through a hardship that only our members can relate to.  From the moment I was able to join, I had friends and mentors for a life time.  Not only did I gain an amazing network, but I knew I had a place to turn to for any kind of advice.  I’ve danced the night away with members in many cities at our international conference.  I’ve met up with members in Narita to get fresh sushi with 787 pilot friends.  I called a mentor very late at night because I was so nervous before an interview.  I’ve laughed, cried, and celebrated so much with these women.  I am the pilot I am today because of ISA+21 and I am so proud to be a member.