REACHING NEW HEIGHTS
By: Krysta Kearney
“I don't do well unless I'm challenged, I know that about myself.”
This week’s fearless female is Tory Crosby, a 29 year old pilot based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. Little did she know a mere 6 years ago that she would be flying high around the world, quite literally, on a daily basis with the lens of a bird's eye view. Once realizing her passion, she has found herself in a career that she is completely in love with and is excelling faster and being stronger by the day. As a young woman in aviation she is challenging the industry of the past and setting the bar for inspiring females of the future. Her short career exhibits high accolades, in five years she has already become a captain and is training for management. Not only is she a Rockstar amongst her colleagues, interesting enough, she has found ‘stardom’ on the social media platform, TikTok. Her account has almost 500,000 followers and has millions of likes. With her account trending and only gaining in momentum, it has boasted both her confidence and career while also inspiring viewers. Her informational videos show things like what a pilot’s view is from the cock-pit and the perks of the job. Crosby is bridging the gap between passenger and pilot and bringing her world closer, humanizing the pilot more than ever before.
“The thought of me flying helicopters like six to seven years ago...I would have been like, yeah right…that’s not going to happen.”
Growing up in quintessential blue collar America, her description of her upbringing is one of love and virtue, a caring and strong family unit and a mother and father who were able to provide for their children and were still deeply in love with each other after many years of marriage. Her mother was a doctor, dad an electrician and brother; a sibling that she got along with, they had a great relationship and even more so now. Life was good, she had many friends and lived the life of a young girl in small town USA, Lakeland, Florida. After she graduated high school she attempted college but knew from the beginning it wasn’t for her, she wasn’t motivated and had no interest in it. Her parents wanted her to go, she gave it a shot and it became very apparent that it wasn’t for her. They recognized this and were supportive of her decision to drop out. They said if school wasn’t for her then she needed to find what was, what would fulfill her in life.
“I realized I have this life, (it’s like a) massive oyster that I could do whatever I want with.”
Knowing the world is her oyster, and that she must possess a pearl, she began to think about what she would like to do, what were her interests, desires? Crosby knew that she wanted to move, discover something new. It would have been easy for her to move to Miami or Tampa but she wanted to go big and take the leap. She was young, so why not? As a waitress she saved up a bunch of money and travelled to three large cities to see what suited her new home best, NY, LA and Las Vegas. In her eyes, these were some of the largest cities that present so much opportunity, so she went to check out every one of them.
“It was almost like the three little bears, too hot, too cold and just right.”
NY, she didn’t like because of winter and the public transportation, LA wasn’t for her, as it was also large and vast...it just didn’t feel right but once in Vegas, she found home. It seemed perfect. The weather was great, cheap living, endless opportunities, it was a no brainer. After returning home from all three and having made her decision, no one believed that she would actually make the move, then one day, at 20 years old, she packed the car and headed on the long trek across country on her own, to a world unknown, the abyss of the desert, a land of new opportunity. Viva Las Vegas!
Excited and nervous, she found an apartment and at first struggled. She was relying on the restaurant industry, as that was her background and she knew in Vegas you could make good money but what she didn’t know is that you had to be 21 to be a server and a bartender, different from Florida. Once she turned 21 she got a bartending job and started making serious money but knew she couldn’t do that forever. The first five years in Vegas she worked odd and end restaurant jobs and had fun. Then, tragically, back in Florida her mother got cancer. It wasn’t until the last few months of her mother being sick that she learned just how sick her mother actually was.
“I found out later she knew the whole time that it was matacisised, she knew and she never let anyone else know.”
Crosby would fly back and forth from Vegas, bouncing weekly from state to state, continuing the repetitive cycle, so that she could maintain her job. Her mother was an incredibly strong woman, a doctor, well respected in the community and a good mother. She didn’t want anyone to know how bad her cancer was. She knew it was terminal but never shared it with her family until it felt like she had to. Tragically, her mother passed away. Crosby felt lost and in mourning, she realized she needed to be active, instead of nestling into the depressive hole she could have very easily fallen into, she started to make some changes. Seeking life, she reflected on what she might want to do, what her goals were, hence a bucket list emerged. Her mother’s passing gave her the vision to take the plunge, turn her life around and do something different.
“My mom had passed away and her biggest regret was, ‘I wish I had lived life more fully, I wish I had done more adventures.’ So when she passed I was like, ‘Alright I’m going to go skydiving, I’m gonna drive race cars, I’m gonna travel!!’”
She saw an advertisement to learn how to fly a helicopter, it said they would give you controls on day one if you really want to fly! So she figured, why not…check it off the bucket list, it could be fun! Once she was in the sky, she instantly fell in love with it. She got back on the ground and asked, ‘How much is it gonna cost for me to be a helicopter pilot?’ She never looked back, became obsessed, dove in head first and committed. Within three months she had her helicopter license, yes, three months! She took some insight from a friend in aviation who told her if she ever wanted to make it a career she should really consider switching to planes, (as she calls it, fixed wing) so she saved up some money, quit her job, got all the credentials she needed to fly fixed wing and started her aviation career.
“To be fair, I was 25 years old but I hadn’t gone to college or anything like that, I waited (and most people my age already had a 4 year degree or were established in career) but I had no idea what I wanted to do, but once I found it I was like, alright, I’m going to get this done.”
Infatuated, she found her passion and has never looked back. People always ask her if she has family in aviation, or any influences and she doesn’t, it just came out of nowhere, literally, from an ad. She had no idea that she would like it, had no preminicions and hope that she even would, was not thinking about her career at all, just something to check off the list. The memoriam of her mother in ways really gave her the power under her own wings to try new things, live on the wild side and not take life for granted.
“I fell in love with flying and the experience and the things that you see. It was incredible to me. It made it easy for the schooling and to get it done fast.”
She didn’t have to force herself to study, she thoroughly enjoyed it. For fun, she has always done logic games and math puzzles, so in some ways, the logistical side of the job was something she was already interested in. In aviation, there is a bit of everything, engineering, science and mechanical studies. Crosby says there is so much memorization, it’s an endless opportunity to learn. She buckled down and studied all the time, and truly became fascinated, enthralled with all aviation had to offer. She just wanted to get better. There were times that were rough, such as stormy days, days that seemed extremely scary but now, in retrospect it isn’t scary, she just needed to learn how to get through, and understand how to do it safely. Also, who can’t deny the perks of flying. She gets to travel, see the world and get paid while doing it. Before flying she had been saving up all her money to travel and now she gets paid to do it! It’s a dream come true.
“I was paying money to travel and wanted to do so many trips and now it's kind of weird because like, the new job I have now, I’m flying to St. Simons in a couple months and I’m planning the trip but I'm flying a private jet down there. I'm staying down there for a week and it's all paid vacation and on top of that I'm getting paid to do it. It's a whole new lifestyle and it's crazy to me still, I can’t get over it.”
There is a downside to pilot life, as it’s hard to live a normal civilian american lifestyle. Relationships...what are those?! Crosby doesn’t have much of a personal life, she is always gone, always flying. Since she started aviation, she has been single. Right now, she doesn’t consider it a burden, her lust is for the sky and travel and advancing her career, not in starting a family or finding a boyfriend, a life partner.
“When it comes to the end of the day, I want to be able to choose a trip, I want to be able to go away for a few weeks and I don’t want to feel bad neglecting somebody or leaving someone behind, or maybe I didn’t check in or call, so yeah, i’m good being single right now.”
She doesn’t go on dates when she travels, she is typically planning her next trip or has been flying all day and is tired. She wants to go on an adventure and explore, not sit on a dating app or spend the little time she has trying to meet people. She is content and happy where she is. Being in the aviation industry she sees time and time again, couples having a hard time, as it really takes a toll on their relationship. It makes her happy that she doesn’t have to go through that, that she is content without it. She understands, it has to be hard to be the partner at home while your husband or wife is out flying, but it’s hard on the pilots as well.
“Until it fits in, I'm not going to force a puzzle piece in, if it fits, it fits. Right now my main primary goal is my career, I have an end goal I want and once I get there, I know my life will settle down a little bit more. Until that moment, I’m very content with what I’m doing.”
For the past three years she was working for AirSmart Share. She loved the position, they treated her well, she was promoted to a captain, she had great colleagues. It was perfect for her. They provide charter flights on demand for both business and leisure. Then, about a year ago a new opportunity presented itself that she couldn’t turn down. It was such a huge step in her career. She now works at Dixon Aviation Management Company. Here, she is a captain, as well as managing five different aircrafts. She is being taught how to become a high level manager as well. Crosby compared a portion of the job as being similar to a paid internship, which will eventually lead her to where she ultimately wants to be, working in the management side of aviation. There are a lot of perks to being a manager. For managers, the sky's the limit, you can go as far as you want to go, there is a lifetime of knowledge to learn and you eventually become your own boss, whereas being a pilot you end up taping out at a certain salary. Currently, her job encompasses everything, she is flying, travelling and managing air crafts all at the same time.
In time the position will lead to her overseeing all aspects of aviation management, and she will end up traveling a lot less while getting paid more. Five more years in the industry is a realistic goal as to when she can start to find herself in that position. She still has a lot to learn and doesn’t want to rush it. For now, she is happy where she is, she wants to travel and fly all over the world.
“When you say relationship, maybe that would be the point that I could maintain one should I so desire.”
Crosby meeting her current boss is kind of a funny story, what’s that old saying; ‘You never know who you meet and what position they might hold in your future?’ Sometime ago she was asked by her last employer to fly a jet to a Baja race, which is an off-roading race that starts in Las Vegas and ends in Reno. The man that was providing private jet transportation needed jets and pilots, so he called Airsmart. Crosby happened to be one of the pilots that participated. She recalls meeting him and didn’t think much of it. Turns out the passengers in her plane praised her and gave her remarkable reviews.
“The customers were like, she was awesome, flight was great, the landing was great, even though the weather was really bad.”
Time went by and randomly on the radios, they were talking, (as pilots are constantly talking to other pilots in the sky) she had no idea that they knew each other and she said over to the radio to her fellow pilot, ‘Hey, I will race you back to Vegas’, and he was like, ‘Ok, let’s do it!!’ She beat him back to Vegas and he said on the radio, ‘Is this that woman pilot that flew at the Reno race?’ She said 'yes' and he invited her to his hanger, saying he wanted to talk to her. He knew that she was interested in management and wanted to offer her a position.
"He said, ‘After I met you at the race, I watched your social media, I knew if I met you again I would probably inquire about you to hire you!’”
Basically, he said he had seen what she does on social media, see’s how fast she grows and how dedicated she is, how much she actually likes it. He knew that she would work hard. He recognized that since she was skipping milestones and always reaching to the top, that she was capable of working even harder.
“He was so right, because that’s my personality, I know I probably shouldn’t be here but I'm going to prove that I deserve it and that I can be here.”
She was trying to not show how enthused and excited she was. People don’t typically have an opportunity like this until they are ten years into their career, her being so young and being presented with this, it was like a dream come true. He offered her a position, and she took it. Now, she is chief pilot but also in management training meaning she is flying but also learning everything that she needs to know to advance her career into management. In many ways, her social media is a big part of her professional portfolio.
While caring about her previous employer, she has made sure to ease the transition. Since the beginning of 2021, she has been working both jobs and as one can imagine, this transition has been a lot. Finally, in July, she fully transferred to the new job. She has been able to respect both employers and make the transition easier for everybody.
"Everyone was so excited for me, they said, ‘That is too good to be true, you are going to go from a captain to a chief pilot?!?! You have to take it.’”
TikTok helped launch her career into the next place, and has given her recognition and respect amongst the community. Her profile is uplifting, honest, safe and fun, depicting positive imagery of what it’s like to be a pilot.
“When you think about pilots there’s no real way to say are you good or are you not good. All you have is this resume but how well can you perform the job? And you don’t know until after…it's not like you fly with them. So having TikTok show videos of me flying, people kind of get more of an idea (of what i'm capable of), it helps with the resume.”
Many of her followers talk about how inspiring she is, how fun it is to watch, that they are learning things they never knew about aviation and that it’s amazing to see a woman do such awesome things in a male dominated industry. She likes to have fun with it and posts funny content, being herself. Crosby says, ‘You can only do that when you are confident and good at your skill.’ People post literally everything on the internet but their content may be weak or they may be bad at what they are doing or put a spin on the reality of what it is that they do. For her, it’s just her, being her goofy self, doing what she is good at and what she loves, while sharing it with the world. Both of her jobs have been super supportive of her social media, because she is professional, she is a good pilot. She wouldn't have their backing if it portrayed a bad image of aviation.
A fellow pilot friend of her’s is who convinced her to start a TikTok account. She had never been much for social media, only had a facebook page and didn’t actively engage with it. She started playing around, creating some content and one day she posted a video that had a trending sound that went along with it. She wasn’t even really into the video, in fact she was working on something that she liked and cared about, but just wanted to throw some type of content up. Within 24 hours, the video went viral and she had over 5 million views.
It was crazy, she couldn’t believe it. How fun she thought and she loved the remarks and comments that her videos were getting. It became a creative outlet for her in her travels. She started to notice the influence that she had on other people, how much she was inspiring others to want to fly.
“I am working with this one girl right now, she is 14, I’ve been using all my TikTok money, (you do make money on TikTok). I’ve been paying for her flight lessons.”
Crosby has been loving getting all of the updates on her progress. The young girl has been supportive of Crosby since day one and she is happy that she can now return the favor. Unfortunately she has never met her, ironically she lives in Florida. Initially, her father reached out himself on TikTok. He is an immigrant and is working incredibly hard to provide.
“We are really inspired by you and my daughter wants to chase in your footsteps, I know you probably get asked this a lot but can you give me an idea on how to start her?”
Their story hit home and she managed to get their phone number and make the call. After speaking to both of them, she wanted to help. She told her that she would pay for flight school and the young girl could not stop crying, she was overcome with joy.
“I pulled on my heart strings and said I will do whatever I can to help you guys.”
Crosby mailed all her aviation books to get her started and now, once a week she is flying. Not your typical 14 year old!
“That's inspiring for me, to be that young...i’m envious and am so excited for her, seriously, to be that young! I wish I knew at that age what my passion is and what I want to do and I think it's so cool that she has that.”
Moxxi asked her what it’s like to be a female in the industry. According to Women In Aviation International, women only makeup 6% of the total pilot population. Crosby doesn’t feel like her career is any harder or different being female. She thinks of herself as a pilot, and that’s it. She is doing what she needs to do for the safety of herself and others, being smart, giving it her best, getting the job done and that’s about it. She doesn’t even think about the fact that she is female, nor lets it get in her way.
“I don't even consider myself a female pilot. I mean, I'm a pilot, I'm just here to do my job and at the end of the day it's not like any other job, you have your life in your hands...and families and just so many peoples lives in your hands! I'm going to do my best, be the best I can be, always study and learn more.”
She does recall some instances where being a female has presented it’s tribulations. Once she had a male First Officer, (which is the pilot that works under the captain, the second in command in the cockpit) who made her job very challenging. He questioned everything she did and would relentlessly ridicule her. She sat him down and told him not to undermine her in any way in her aircraft, if he had any problems or questions, to please ask her directly in the same approach he would with any other captain. Eventually she requested he not be in her aircraft. It’s been very little though, that she has had problems with male colleagues. She said that as many poor experiences with men she has had, she has had from women just as much.
“Honestly, the hardships I've dealt with in my career have actually come from other women because at the end of the day i'm stuck in a cockpit; in a very small and confined space with their significant other (husband) going on trips.”
She has been asked to be taken off of trips, it's been the hardest thing for her to overcome, how to convince other women that their partners safe with her, that they’re just working. She understands the concern, but there isn’t much she can do. It is a real burden and problem for her. She hasn’t been able to figure out how to fully overcome the situation with wives, because each situation is different. She has asked her male colleagues in the past if they would want her to meet their wives, she doesn’t know how to help, what the best direction is. Thankfully, they are honest with her. She gets taken off of certain flights, and it’s always the good ones, so if she didn’t know why, she would think that she was actually doing something wrong. It is always the fun trips, ones where you go to well sought after destinations, exotic and tropical places, ones that could be considered romantic in some way.
“It makes sense, I have no hard feelings towards that, you can't control it, I can't control it, it is what it is, it made it easier once we hired female FO’s because then it was like, ‘Her husband isn’t going to care that i'm down there with her.”
All in all, it’s mainly people outside her workforce that give any trouble and all her colleagues are great. The aviation community of women, her fellow female pilots are amazing and beyond supportive. The last company she worked at, Airsmart, had four female pilots. They all loved each other and pushed one another to further their careers. They became best friends. Crosby says in the next few months she is going to start hiring pilots and she hopes there are some strong, competitive female candidates.
Aviation has truly changed Crosby’s life. It has given her a purpose, fueled her passions and presented a whole new outlook on both her identity and goals for the future. It goes to show that once you find something that you are passionate about, you might as well stick with it, if it brings you joy, find out how to continue to do it and maybe you can make it a sustainable career. What started as checking off a box on a bucket list, became a whole new meaning in life. Her mothers passing gave her the courage to seek it. In a way she is living on in her mom's legacy and starting a new one of her own, creating a whole new twist in her life story. When she got her first pilot license all she wanted to do was call and tell her mother, she knew she would be so proud. It's been really hard on her but she knows life is short and you only live once so might as well make the best of it.
Next month she plans on going skydiving on her own, it’s something that absolutely terrifies her, which is exactly the reason that she is doing it. She gets a lot of messages online, people saying that they may not be planning on becoming a pilot but that she has inspired them to try something extreme and different, to take a leap in life. Hearing from people, really encourages herself to do better, it’s her fans that drive her. She knows for herself she needs to overcome the fear, that it’s going to be terrifying but because of that, the reward is so great, once she overcomes it, she will have courage to do even harder things. What could top that, what could be the next thing on her bucket list?
It’s safe to say that Crosby is a Fearless Female. The sky's not the limit for her, she is always testing her own personal boundaries and knows and understands what she is capable of. She doesn’t compare herself to others, she only ever levels up to her own self, to prove that she is able. Her endless drive and willingness to adapt and be open to change will continue to power her career, and her ambitions. It all started with taking the first initial leap, trusting her gut and travelling into the vast abyss of the american dream, an endless landscape of opportunity. It was waiting for her, the pearl in the oyster shell and in all it’s beauty, she is embracing it.
Q + A
Anything you tell yourself in hard times?
“Every time I face a new challenge, I know it makes me stronger and I know it's going to advance me as a person and I think that's the most amazing thing about humans is everything we do is growth in one way or another and that's always how I look at it. I do love the hardships I go through because it makes the good times just that much better so that's all I think about is that I'm thankful for the hardships."
Do you have any favorite quotes?
"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” — Henry David Thoreau
What are some advice or thoughts for someone coping with the loss of a parent?
"It is never easy losing a parent. The thing that I have found the most comfort in after my mother’s passing has been accomplishing things that I know she would be beyond proud of while using her as my motivation. That way I feel her as a part of all my growth. Just because she isn’t physically here doesn’t mean her memory, inspiration, and support isn’t. So I find comfort in knowing she’s with me still."
Do you have any advice on taking a leap in life?
"Honestly just do it, do it whether there is doubt, if you try...the worst you are going to do is fail but that's only something that will advance you. It's a learning lesson, realizing you do well at this or not well at this, you will realize what you do well at or what you want, so try new things.”
What advice would you give to someone that wants to get into aviation but doesn't know where to start?
"The best way I think to start is to find a flight training facility or any airport around you and go on a demo flight with a certified flight instructor. Within minutes after takeoff you will be handed flight controls and get to experience the sensation of flying. After you intro flight you should know whether it’s something you are going to love or if it's not for you. (This is how I got hooked and where all my motivation to pursue it came from.) The flight instructor that you went up with will be able to provide all the tools and information you’ll need to begin your journey on obtaining your pilot's license."