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Episode 142- Breaking Barriers: Desiree Horton’s Path to Becoming a Fire Pilot Part II

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Episode Description

Welcome to The Hangar Z Podcast, brought to you by Vertical Helicasts.

In this two-part series, we sit down to talk with Desiree Horton. With 33 years of aviation expertise and over 10,000 flight hours under her belt, Horton brings a wealth of experience to the world of public safety aviation. Currently serving as a fire/rescue pilot for Kern County Fire Department, she has dedicated her career to protecting lives and property from the skies.

Horton embarked on her aviation journey in 1990 in Southern California, navigating some of the busiest airspace and operating out of the Van Nuys Airport, one of the busiest airports. Her diverse background includes flying tours, charter flights, news coverage, traffic watch, and movie production work. For almost half of her career, she honed her skills in various aviation roles before realizing her dream of becoming a fire pilot.

The path to becoming a fire pilot was challenging in the early days, with limited opportunities for those without prior experience. Undeterred, Horton financed her own training for long line and mountain courses, securing a position with a company willing to give her a chance. She made history by becoming the first female pilot on an exclusive use contract for Region 5 with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

After years of serving as a contract pilot for the USFS, Horton achieved her goal of working for a fire department in Southern California. In 2013, she joined Cal Fire as a full-time female fire helicopter pilot, dedicating almost seven years to the organization. Continuing her trailblazing career, she moved on to the Orange County Fire Department in her hometown, where she became the first woman to work in air operations and as a pilot for the department.

Currently, Horton is breaking new ground with the Kern County Fire Department as their first-ever female fire/rescue pilot. Driven by a desire to encourage women to explore opportunities in public safety aviation, she aspires to overcome obstacles and promote a positive culture within the industry.

Thank you to our Sponsors CNC Technologies, Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing and Metro Aviation.

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