formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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December 15, 2009 LISD Superintendent's pilot-daughter

The Liberty Gazette
December 15, 2009

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Liberty school superintendent Cynthia Lusignolo has a keen interest in aviation. After all, both her dad and her daughter are pilots.

23-year old Emily says she just “fell into it” one summer when step-dad Dave, an Air Force retiree, suggested she apply for a civilian summer job during her high school years. “I was planning to be a veterinarian,” says the animal lover-tennis player-professional pilot. “But somehow I just lucked into this summer job where I was handling pilots’ records. I was around them all the time and soon they started offering to let me try out the simulator. That’s when the aviation bug bit.”

Emily loved flying the sim, and told her mom she wanted to learn to fly. “Mom was great,” she says with appreciation. “It was my senior year, so she didn’t have much time to scramble to get me in to the aviation class, an option in the magnet program that Hirschi High School in Wichita Falls offered. She worked hard to get me in it. She did a lot to support me.”

The school offered aviation courses like Sterling High School does in Houston, where students took ground school during regular school hours and then flew after school. The instructors were careful not to pressure the young students into soloing before they felt ready, so the day of the solo was not really scheduled. Knowing that, Dave and Cynthia came out to the airport every day with the video camera, ready to record that exciting moment. “Mom got it on video tape.”

Emily earned her private pilot license before she graduated from high school, then earned her multi-engine rating in the summer before starting college at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, eventually working as a flight instructor before landing the job with American Eagle. She holds a commercial pilot certificate with an Embraer 145 Second-in-Command type rating, and flies about 75-80 hours a month, based out of Chicago.

Although females make up only six percent of all U.S. licensed pilots, Emily says she has not experienced any bias against her. Quite the contrary, in fact. “You never know who you’ll be sitting next to. I meet the most interesting people,” including someone who qualified as an alternate for the Olympics in figure skating, now a Captain for American Eagle.

“We have several flight attendants who have always wanted to fly, so they got airline jobs to pay for their flight training and be exposed to professional aviation at the same time. That takes a real strong drive.”

We talked a bit about General Aviation, because that’s very different from flying airlines. “I haven’t been back in a small plane since I started with Eagle, but I’d sure love to go out buzzing around again. That would be fun, to fly where I want, on my own schedule, I’d like to go to fly-ins. Someday.”

She remembers visiting her granddad when she was about five years old, and he lifted her up into his bi-plane for a photo. “I guess he knew he was encouraging another generation to fly,” she grinned. “He came to my graduation at Embry Riddle. That meant a lot to me, and I know he was proud of me.”

Emily spends her days off volunteering at a horse farm in Delaware that offers therapeutic riding for people with disabilities, and is an all-around sweet young woman, just like her mom.

Mike and Linda can be reached at

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