Saratoga Springs woman flying high and serving her country

July 13, 2017 06:59 PM

A local woman literally spends much of her time with her head in the clouds, traveling to some of the far reaches of the world. Now, she’s sharing those adventures in a book aimed at inspiring little girls.

"I went to school to become a teacher," explained Amanda Coonradt.

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To Coonradt that seemed like a solid plan. However, the girl who grew up on a farm in Saratoga Springs then joined the New York Air National Guard to pay for college. It was just after 9/11 and now the strong desire to serve her country began to supersede the desire to teach.

"It keeps your heart full of pride and empowerment," Coonradt explained.

She soon became a Major and part of the rescue team at the 109th Airlift Wing in Scotia. They’re the team that goes to Antarctica to rescue those in trouble.

"We rescued Dr. Nielsen down at the South Pole. She self-diagnosed herself with breast cancer," pointed out Coonradt.

Last year, it was Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who had some medical issues as well.

These missions in the violently cold temperatures during the austral winter of the arctic are risky.

"We fly in the most austere and remote locations in the world," explained Coonradt.

Maj. Coonradt flies as part of a five-member crew. She calls her crew her family.

"It is very rewarding knowing that we can be relied on," she acknowledged.

The LC-130 is equipped with skis and in those times when they have to land in brutal weather or almost total darkness, it’s Maj. Coonradt's job to be a human GPS. She's the navigator, plotting the way for the pilot.

"We’ll see how the winds are affecting our airplane that day. We'll look at what our cargo is and how heavy the airplane will be when we take off and when we land," she explained.

There aren't a lot of female navigators, but Maj. Coonradt says it's getting better. In fact, she says two female navigators just got their wings last month.

She's taking it upon herself to inspire females too, by sharing her adventures in her new children's book, "Air Force Amanda." It's the first in a series. She says she did it for her daughter, Amelia, named after aviator Amelia Earhart and for all those other little girls out there with thoughts of taking to the sky.

"I really wanted to bring my love for education and my passion for flying together and to share with her some of the places I’ve gone," she explained.

When Maj. Coonradt and the crew aren’t making rescues, they support the scientists at the South Pole with their research missions.


WNYT Staff

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