Newman alumna Rusty Carbaugh ’15 soars

Dec 13, 2022
Rusty Carbaugh (courtesy photo)

Rusty Carbaugh ’15 originally earned a theater degree with the hopes of pursuing an on-stage career. She quickly learned that the skills she developed weren’t limited to performance, however. Now, she’s making a name for herself as a second-in-command pilot.

On a whim, she applied to be a flight attendant with United Airlines because she knew whatever path she took next would have to do with travel.

Carbaugh got the job and moved to Chicago. She worked for United for three years before deciding customer service wasn’t the right fit for her either.

Her next career move was inspired by none other than a protocol she had to use as a flight attendant for when pilots needed to use the restroom.

On one long night flight, the copilot on Carbaugh’s plane had to use the restroom, so she was required to go into the flight deck while he was away.

Rusty Carbaugh sits in a jet engine (courtesy photo)
Rusty Carbaugh sits in a jet engine (courtesy photo)

“The captain and I started talking and he asked what school was like for me,” Carbaugh explained. “I told him I was valedictorian in high school with a 4.0 GPA and a high ACT. I also told him my college tuition was covered at Newman by the Cardinal Newman scholarship, and that I graduated summa cum laude. He asked why I was a flight attendant instead of a pilot and told me I should think about learning to fly.”

Carbaugh recalled laughing at him, but the captain responded that he was serious. Later, she started looking into flight training and pilot salary and decided to go for it.

“Once I decided to go to flight school, I knew that I had to move back to Wichita, where learning to fly was much cheaper and I had a network of family nearby,” she said.

In the years since her decision to become a pilot, Carbaugh has achieved a number of accolades. Today, she holds private, instrument, commercial and multi-engine flight certificates. She’s also earned her flight instructor certificate, tail wheel endorsement, high performance endorsement, high altitude endorsement and flight instructor instrument certificate.

Carbaugh is now a pilot. (Courtesy photo)
Carbaugh is now a pilot. (Courtesy photo)

Carbaugh currently flies private jets as a second-in-command pilot.

In all that she’s accomplished, though, one memory from flying stands out most — teaching her dad to fly.

“It was a very special thing, but I specifically enjoyed telling my dad not to ride the brakes like he did to me when he was teaching me to drive,” she said.

A worldly experience

It may not seem like aviation and theater have much anything in common, but Carbaugh finds that she can “utilize the skills my degree afforded me in many situations.”

“I am very adept at networking and job interviews because theater taught me to get inside the heads of my characters, and I did a ton of auditioning which is just another type of interview,” she said. “Improv is also a key skill that taught me to be quick on my feet when faced with a potential emergency situation in the flight deck.”

What Carbaugh enjoys most about being a pilot is the opportunity to travel. She shared that she caught the travel bug after participating in Europe by Rail with Kelly McFall, director of Newman’s Honors Program. After that experience, Carbaugh spent a semester abroad in Birmingham, England, and then backpacked and couch surfed across Europe by herself for the whole summer.

“I made a lot of amazing memories, like living at a sailing school in Italy,” she said.

Carbaugh also has fond memories from her time on Newman’s campus. She was involved in student government, Campus Activities Board, the Sloppy Joe Improv troupe, chorale, troubadours and the Honors Program. She met many standout people while a student, too.

“I of course need to mention Deanne Zogleman and Mark Mannette, but I’ll be honest, I look back on almost all of my professors at Newman and think they were pretty dang cool,” Carbaugh said. “Some of my very best friends in the world I met at Newman. I am probably cheered on the most by Alaina Garrett and Pancho Fields who happen to be the 2014 Ablah Award winners (and I never let them forget it).”

For folks interested in learning to fly or who might want to go on a flight with Carbaugh for fun, they can reach out to her on Instagram at @rusty_marlo.

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