Family Skies

It wasn’t just the flying part that made Tabitha Plasschaert choose to follow her mother’s career as a commercial jet pilot.

It was seeing her mom so happy going to work.

“Just seeing that growing up: A job you love to go to instead of dreading. That was a huge thing for me,” said Tabitha, a Minnesota State Mankato aviation student who recently received her private pilot’s license. She’s now working on getting her commercial license —just like mom.

Catherine Plasschaert has been a captain for Delta Airlines since 1998. A 1991 graduate of Minnesota State Mankato’s aviation program, Catherine flew for regional airlines before taking flight with Northwest (which became the Delta of today.) Today she flies the Boeing 757 and the Boeing 767 for Delta out of the Twin Cities.

Tabitha, left, and Catherine Plasschaert are both pilots and Minnesota State Mankato aviation students—past and present.

She pleads guilty to enjoying her work, and it was no surprise to her that Tabitha and her younger sister Taylor both became intrigued with flying when they watched their mom work.

“We traveled quite a bit as a family due to the benefits we had. I knew early on that both our daughters loved to travel. Early on they decided they loved to travel so much they’d give it a try. I knew once they started lessons they’d love it.”

Tabitha recalls the fascination and pride seeing their mother at the controls of the jumbo jets.

“When we were younger, me and my sister would go on trips because we’d fly for free on her airline,” she said. “She’d bring us up to the cockpit every chance she would get.” Her sister, Taylor, is a high school senior who recently received her private pilot certificate. She’ll be joining the University in fall of 2021.

This family of flyers got its start when Catherine was 12 years old and attended a cousin’s graduation ceremony at the U.S. Air Force academy in Colorado Springs. She knew on the spot, Catherine said, that she would follow in her cousin’s footsteps.

“He told me the best thing I could do is to join Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the Air Force, which I did at age 13. “Once I started, I was hooked. I loved it.”

She began flight training with the Civil Air Patrol at age 16 in 1986, getting her private pilot license at age 17.

Originally intending to join the Air Force, she was encouraged to take aviation studies at the University by a mentor, John Roberts, the head of the aviation program at the time. She graduated in 1991 from the program daughters Tabitha and Taylor are both enrolled in now.

The thrill of having mom flying the plane still hasn’t worn off, Tabitha said.

“There are a lot of moments. I always get kind of giddy when we’re on a flight that she flies and you hear her on a loudspeaker going ‘This is your captain speaking…’ That always kind of excites me knowing that she’s up there, taking us to one destination and another.”