Jodi Rueger on Flying Above & Beyond
Jodi Rueger is a passionate pilot, airshow sensation, and aerobatics extraordinaire who is always pushing herself past boundaries and past what some think is unattainable. At the age 12, Jodi decided she wanted to be a pilot and hasn’t looked back since. Jodi has invested endless time and energy into perfecting her skills to become the competitive and talented airshow performer and pilot she is today. All the while, she uses her platform to make a difference and to be an inspiration to others, especially women who aspire to be pilots.
“I just got hellbent that this is what I wanted to do.” – Jodi Rueger
Jodi’s passion for flying started when she was in seventh grade. Her class took a 200-question career quiz that offered hundreds of viable options for jobs based on your answers and personality tendencies. Out of all possible options, Jodi answers indicated her career to be a pyrotechnic or a pilot. She says, “I just got hellbent that this is what I wanted to do.” From that point forward, Jodi stuck to her goals and was extremely motivated to pursue a career as a pilot. She joined air cadets, and transferred schools to take flying classes that were offered at the high school level to get a head start for college. She woke up every morning at 5:30 am to take the bus to her new high school and made countless changes to her life routine for her dream of being a pilot. Jodi’s family did not have the extra funds to support her ventures, it was up to her to figure it out from a young age. Very often people told her that this path was not very realistic and that she would not be able to succeed. Jodi turned this negativity into fuel for her internal flame. She says, “The more people that told me I couldn’t do it, the harder I tried to do it and the more it motivated me.” This is important advice to remember when you feel alone and like you are the only person rooting for yourself and your passions, use it as fuel!
“The more people that told me I couldn’t do it, the harder I tried to do it and the more it motivated me.” – Jodi Rueger
The resourceful and driven spirit behind everything Jodi did truly paid off. She was accepted into Sault College in Ontario, which has a very competitive aviation program. Despite the fact that Jodi had a bit of a head start coming into Sault, since she was one of the only her classmates entering college with a pilot’s license, she realized that the rigor of the academics was going to be no small feat. There were very strict grade requirements and a high number of flying hours needed to remain a member of the program, not to mention the feeling of cold isolation that comes when all the way up north in Ontario, Canada. Jodi was one of 23 students that graduated in her class that originally began with 83 students. Even though she was still very passionate about flying through it all, she admits that there were hard and draining times where she questioned her life choice. The fun began to get sucked out of her experience, but she didn’t let these feelings get in the way for very long. Jodi decided to take the initiative to make flying exciting again and it was then that she discovered her love for aerobatics.
Aerobatics is a form of flying that is meant to showcase spectacular jaw-dropping tricks in an airplane for an audience usually on the ground. Jodi revamped her passion for flying by putting the measures in place that were necessary so she could invest time in learning the ins and outs of aerobatics and eventually enter different airshows. While aerobatics was truly her passion, she had to be realistic at first about how she would make a living. Even though it was not her first choice, Jodi piloted commercial flights for an airline for a couple of years because she knew that this was an imperative step to set her up for the future. Often people forget that in order to reach an end goal, there are sacrifices that need to be made to make that goal a possibility down the road. After putting in her time as a commercial pilot, Jodi worked on the crew for an airshow performer where she really learned the ropes of what it takes to be successful in that sector of the industry.
“For me, aerobatics is the most fun that you’re ever going to have in an airplane, and it’s also a high degree of precision, so it’s really challenging. It pushes yourself and your airplane to your limits.” -Jodi Rueger
As Jodi began her own path in the airshow world, she fell in love with the thrill and the excitement of practicing aerobatics. She says, “For me, aerobatics is the most fun that you’re ever going to have in an airplane, and it’s also a high degree of precision, so it’s really challenging. It pushes yourself and your airplane to your limits.” Within Jodi’s first year of competitively flying, she secured a brand partnership with Avian Watches. She was ecstatic about this opportunity because it was with a company that strives to make a positive impact on the community. They align perfectly with Jodi, specifically through their donation efforts to fund programs for kids’ flight education. Other sponsors include, Flight Flix, a company that makes camera mounts which came to serve as a dual purpose for Jodi. Having the ability to record her flights quickly showed her what she did well and what she needed to improve, but it also sparked her interested in video editing and making promotional videos out of the content. Jodi has since turned video editing into one of her hobbies. It is one of the major ways that she uses her platform to educate her followers on the craft of aviation and aerobatics specifically.
“There’s a lot of short term pain for long term gain, but if you are really passionate about it, it will be worth it in the end.” – Jodi Rueger
At first, Instagram served as a platform for Jodi to get her name out there and gain a following so that airshows would be interested in her talents for publicity reasons. Once this tactic proved successful, Jodi had more freedom to use her public figure platform to share her love for flying and inform more people about the success, but also challenges, that come with her career. One of the major challenges being the fact that she is a woman. Currently, Jodi is a part of the 7.5% of pilots that identify as female. Jodi says that throughout her career people would make inappropriate, uninformed comments about Jodi getting hired for jobs because she was a woman, disregarding the fact that she is a very talented pilot. These comments influenced her to change her Instagram name, in her sarcastic fashion, to @quotafiller. While this is somewhat of a joke, it also brings attention to the fact that very often the talents of women, along with many other groups of people, get overlooked and degraded by others by simply attributing their status or success to their ability to fulfill a diversity requirement. Jodi doesn’t let this get in her way, rather it pushes her more to become a better example for the women to come in the industry. She never forgets her motto, “There’s a lot of short term pain for long term gain, but if you are really passionate about it, it will be worth it in the end.”
“It’s really cool because you can help influence someone’s dream and point them in the direction of how to make that happen.” -Jodi Rueger
Jodi doesn’t take any interaction with fans or audience members for granted. Constantly, Jodi uses her status to encourage and push others to pursue their own aspirations regardless of the doubts others may have about it. Sometimes, after airshows, younger women or children tell Jodi that her life path has made an impact on them and showed them that flying is truly an attainable passion and career path. Jodi says, “It’s really cool because you can help influence someone’s dream and point them in the direction of how to make that happen.”
“I’ve never had more fun in my life, so I’m sticking with it because it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.” -Jodi Rueger
Jodi is an example of how it is important to never let other’s opinions hold you back. You are the only person that truly knows your own potential. She is also a huge advocate for working hard toward your goals but never forgetting to find the fun within your craft. Jodi beams about her personal passion. She says, “I’ve never had more fun in my life, so I’m sticking with it because it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.” It is very inspiring to hear from someone who invests so much into their work but enjoys it so much at the same time, all while positively influencing others. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and story Jodi! If you want to check out some of Jodi’s awesome flying videos and follow her journey, check out her Instagram and YouTube linked below.
Written by: Anna Rice
Interview by: Jason Crowe