Indiana State University Newsroom

FAA recognizes student pilot, instructors

May 13, 2015

What began as an effort to honor the outstanding achievement of a student in Indiana State University's Flight Academy ended with flight instructors and aviation technology department administrators also being recognized.

A Federal Aviation Administration official was so impressed with freshman Brittany Danko's private pilot test ride that he wanted to do something to call attention to her skills. After a review of his records, he found the others also deserving of recognition so FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. authorized the presentation of the agency's prestigious Challenge Coins to the entire group.

"The Challenge Coins we don't give out very often. In 10 years, we've given one," said Jim Martin, principle operations inspector with the FAA's Indianapolis Flight Standards District Office.

Martin said he has administered more than 500 "check rides" but none matched that of Danko's.

"Typically, my note page is a page, page and a half. This young woman flew to (airline transport pilot) standards on a private pilot check ride and I had three notes," he said.

"I've not seen a private pilot perform like you did," he told Danko, though he said other student pilots at Indiana State have come close.

"I feel very honored that I got this and I worked very hard. I feel very blessed to be here," said Danko, crediting flight instructor Jordan Adams for inspiring her to a high level of achievement.

"If Jordan didn't make me come out at 8 a.m. when it was snowing super hard I would not be the pilot that I am today," the Corydon resident said. "He's made me wake up on a lot of mornings I didn't want to. This is a great school."

Meeting airline transport pilot standards means Danko is performing at the ability of a commercial airline pilot, noted Dick Baker, chair of the aviation technology department."That's what everybody here is striving for and she's already at that level. Her quality of flying is that good," he said.

Martin also presented Challenge Coins to Baker, former department chair Harry Minniear, chief instructor Kevin Donnar, assistant chief instructor J.J. Dover and Adams.

Martin praised Donnar for his leadership, coupled with common sense, Dover for his skillful drafting of pilot manuals and Adams for his instructional ability.

"When I look at your numbers, they're very consistent. I don't get any complaints; I don't see things failing or falling through the cracks," he said.

"This is a big deal," Baker said of the FAA's recognition of Indiana State's Flight Academy, which is only in its third year of operation. "We've gone from absolutely nothing to where we are today and being recognized by the FAA."

Photo: - Jim Martin, principle operations inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration's Indianapolis Flight Standards District Office, congratulates Brittany Danko, a freshman aviation technology major at Indiana State University, after presenting her with an FAA Challenge Coin in recognition of her skills as a pilot. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Photo: - Jim Martin (left), principle operations inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration's Indianapolis Flight Standards District Office, prepares to present FAA Challenge Coins to (from left) Kevin Donnar, chief instructor, Indiana State University Flight Academy; J.J. Dover, assistant chief instructor; Brittany Danko, aviation technology student; and Dick Baker, chair of the university's aviation technology department. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Media contact: Kevin Donnar, chief instructor pilot, Indiana State University Flight Academy, 812-877-0241 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or