Laura J. Goldsberry
Born and raised in Fort Wayne, Laura Goldsberry wanted to be a pilot from the very beginning. As a young girl, she often dreamed she could fly. Those dreams propelled her to a life-long aviation career of service to students and our nation—a career that saw her achieve several firsts—firsts that only dreams are made of.
Graduating from high school, Laura was accepted into Purdue University’s Professional Pilot Program. Her entry into that program was delayed for one year while she completed her freshman year of college at Purdue’s Fort Wayne campus. The reason for that delay? She used her flying money to repair her parents’ car following an automobile accident. Because the Fort Wayne campus didn’t offer a degree in aviation, Laura declared English as her major. She went on to earn her B.A. degree in three years while at the same time, learning to fly. To this day, Laura has a passion for creative writing.
Laura arrived on campus at West Lafayette in the fall of 1975 to begin flight training. It was only during the drive to West Lafayette that Laura first told her parents that her major would be aviation. To say they were shocked would be an understatement.
And it was in the fall of 1975 that Laura first met Professor “Mitch” Grundman, a 2021 Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame inductee and professor in the aviation and transportation program. Mitch became one of Laura’s mentors and a life-long friend.
In the spring of 1979, after obtaining her fixed-wing ratings, and while still a student in the Professional Pilot Technology Program, Laura applied to become a Purdue faculty member, instructing in the General Flight Technology Department. Although initially intending to offer her a part-time position, Purdue hired Laura full-time after learning she already had a BA degree in English. For the next seven years, Laura was a full-time instructor at Purdue, becoming the General Flight Technology Department’s first tenured, female assistant professor. And she was a good teacher, too—245 of her students successfully completed practical tests for a pilot certificate or rating.
While a faculty member at Purdue, Laura received a scholarship from the International Women Helicopter Pilots Association—the “Whirly-Girls”—to obtain a commercial helicopter rating. Then, spending all the money she had saved for a house, Laura continued training in helicopters and obtained rotary wing instrument, instructor, and instrument instructor ratings. Years later, in 2001, Laura Goldsberry, Whirly-Girl #515, received the Livingston Award, which is presented by the Whirly-Girls to honor a woman who has achieved distinction for contributions made on behalf of women in helicopter aviation.
After becoming dual rated, Laura realized she wanted to combine her love of flying with another interest: law enforcement. She responded to the first ad she saw, the U.S. Customs Service Air and Marine Division and they hired Laura in 1986 as its first female federal agent and pilot. Being dual rated helped open the door and for the next 27 years, she was on the front line of the war on drugs. By the time she retired as a Supervisory Air Interdiction Agent, Laura had flown surveillance, air interdiction, and undercover missions in Cessna Citation jets, Sikorsky UH60 Blackhawk, Astar helicopters, and various Cessna single and multi-engine piston aircraft. Her duty assignments carried her domestically throughout the United States and internationally.
Retiring from federal service, Laura changed hats only slightly, becoming a Lear 45 instructor and designated pilot examiner at FlightSafety International’s Tucson Learning Center. In recognition of her skill as an instructor and evaluator, she earned FlightSafety’s ‘Best of the Best’ Instructor Award for that facility.
For her excellence as an aviation educator, for her service to our nation, and for breaking down barriers to women in aviation, Laura J. Goldsberry is inducted as a Member of the Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame.