Alaska Idaho Montana North Dakota Oregon South Dakota Washington Wyoming
Northwest Section
of The Ninety-Nines
The international organization of women pilots.

99s Fly!

Member Spotlight: Kelli Weed Selected for the Professional Pilot Leadership Initiative

March 18, 2024

Two of our Northwest Section members were recently selected for the The International Ninety-Nines Professional Pilot Leadership Initiative (PPLI)! The PPLI is a mentoring program which connects members with other supportive fellow Ninety-Nines. It will helps to develop and enhance leadership talents and qualities and assists in strengthening and advance career progress.

Today we're spotlighting one of the ladies chosen for the program: Kelli Weed (Montana Chapter).

Kelli Weed - PPLI 2024

How did you get started in flying?

I’ve always been curious about flight, but also a bit terrified. I remember as a small girl learning my grandmother’s hero was Amelia Earhart, but I never knew she got her pilot certificate in 1947 until after I received mine. My younger brother is a test pilot with the Airforce and encouraged me to try flying. I never really thought I had the ability to become a pilot, it just seemed so courageous and adventurous – two things I didn’t really see in myself. But before I started, and now maybe even more so, I found myself pausing often from my fencing and tending sheep near the rural Montana airport to watch the little airplanes climb up through the majestic backdrop of the Bitterroot Mountain Range. I couldn’t keep it out of my head, I want to be up there too! I had no idea then that airplanes would change me forever; that my education in flight would draw out tenacity and thirst for discovery buried inside and hidden under my own self-doubt and fear of inadequacy. My neighbors at the time were hay farmers and pilots with a grass landing strip in their field. After expressing my curiosity of flying to them, my neighbor took me on a flight into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness on a supply delivery to an historical ranch airstrip nestled in the mountains off the Selway River. The thrill of snaking low and slow through the canyons and landing on the greenest carpet imaginable in the middle of the most beautiful mountain valley rocked my world. I had to find a way to learn how to fly! When I took my first lesson, I remember feeling so nervous, like I didn't belong in the pilot's seat. But, once I felt the air under the controls as we took off it was as though I discovered magic in my veins; I was born for this! Two years later, I landed my own airplane at North Star Ranch, that same 900' technical airstrip my neighbor took me to, thinking I might be too afraid to try flying let alone land myself in such a remote and rugged canyon airstrip.

What are your aviation goals and where are you currently?

My goal is to build a flying career, one that will allow me to live in the Northwest. I am enjoying every stage of my aviation journey and if that leads me to the airlines or corporate or part 135 - I am open to the possibilities. Right now I am working my first flying job doing aerial photography in Arkansas, which is honing my skills as PIC while giving me those great views of the country from a small airplane.

How do you think the PPLI will help you?

With the support of the ladies at PPLI, I hope to build my confidence as a pilot so that I can learn to overcome my doubts. I would like to build supportive relationships, build leadership skills that will set me up for success in my aviation career, and reach my full potential as a pilot.

Is there any advice you would give to other women looking for a career in aviation?

Find a CFI who is excited about sharing the joy of flight and enjoy every step of the way. Flying is for you, and you are good enough - even great. Aviation has so much to offer if you can tune out the nay-sayers and keep your eyes on your goals. Also, don't be afraid to let go of things that are good in your life so that you can embrace something great.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about yourself? What do you love to do?

I gave up my life as a shepherd in Western Montana to start my career in aviation. Tending sheep is hard work, sometimes also heart-breaking, and I loved it nearly as much as I love flying. It taught me how to fail and then keep trying, and that might be one of the greatest lessons I've learned to get through tough times in my aviation journey. My interest and involvement with processing wool led me to create mutual connections even in aviation that allowed me to have flying adventures in Alaska, and it reminds me that being genuine and expressing the way you are unique can bring about unexpected connections and opportunities. I brought wool from my sheep with me to Arkansas so that I can continue to spin and knit in my down time. It is comforting, and it reminds me that the best things in life take time and commitment to build. I can and will create that life again one day on my own terms and better than ever.

About the PPLI:

The PPLI aims to accelerate the advancement of women in all pilot professions, facilitate dynamic mentoring, and enhance our leadership role in the aviation community. The program provides highly motivated 99s with the tools to develop their careers and leadership abilities. Through guided activities and formal mentoring partnerships, it strengthens and expands the network of women pilots.

This highly-structured, formal leadership and mentoring program is unique. The mentor and mentee will communicate on a weekly basis to discuss the mentoring prompts and guided activities. Participants must commit to meeting the program expectations for the entire duration of the 18-24 month program.

View the promotional video at

Learn more and apply at

More 99s Fly! articles >>

Share This Page: