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Native American Heritage Month: First Officer Chad Hendricks

November 12, 2023

Native American Heritage Month: First Officer Chad Hendricks

Native American Heritage Month honors the cultures and contributions of indigenous Americans and their influence on the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. During this important observation, we are pleased to spotlight our team members who show how our different backgrounds contribute to The PSA Way.

DCA-based First Officer Chad Hendricks’ interest in aviation began as a kid, growing up two blocks from Milwaukee’s airport. Planes flew over his family’s house daily, and he and his friends would ride their bikes to the airport and walk freely up to the gates. His official flying journey began in 1997 when he joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard and was accepted to attend flight school to become a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot.

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, Chad talked with us about his flying journey, his experience at PSA, and what he cherishes most about his Native American culture.

What do you love most about flying?

I love so many things that I can’t narrow it down to just one. I still feel like a little kid when we advance the throttles to take off and move down the runway. I love the views from the sky that we are so privileged to see daily. I love seeing all the different places I have never been to. My favorite part about flying for the airline is that I get to meet and interact with so many different people daily.

What attracted you to PSA?

I took a fairly long break from flying, and I attended the EAA Air Adventure in Oshkosh for the sole purpose of visiting the career tent. I talked with at least a dozen recruiters that day. The recruiter from PSA spent at least 30 minutes with me explaining everything in detail and what I needed to do to get back into flying. Talking with this recruiter was the highlight of my day. I interviewed at a few places, so I had some choices, but PSA was by far the most organized airline, and I am extremely happy with my choice to come here.

As a Native American pilot, how do you feel you impact PSA’s culture of diversity and inclusion?

Prior to PSA, I was an attorney for ten years, and I still currently serve as an appellate court judge for the Oneida Nation Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. My mother lives on the Oneida Reservation in upstate Wisconsin. I also served in the Army as a Blackhawk Helicopter Pilot, was a City of Milwaukee Firefighter for 10 years, and worked briefly at Comair and SkyWest Airlines. I’ve been around and, through my experiences, have worked in many diverse careers with numerous individuals of diverse backgrounds.

Through these experiences, I have learned to respect people’s differences and have a true desire to learn about their backgrounds and stories. I believe that people from different backgrounds with different ways of life and beliefs can come together and embrace the core values that define us.

Although I’ve only been at PSA for a little over a year, this has been my experience thus far.

What are some cultural traditions and customs you hold dear to you?

Oneidas have always believed in preserving the tradition and culture of their ancestors. I love the fact that the Oneida Nation is known as America’s “First Allies” and were the only Native American tribe to side with America instead of the British during the Revolutionary War. Oneidas traveled hundreds of miles to deliver corn to Washington’s starving troops at Valley Forge. They taught the troops how to cook the corn and forged pacts with Washington’s troops. The Oneidas have continued to carry on the tradition of honor and service in every one of our nation’s wars by proudly serving and fighting to protect our freedoms. I am proud to say I helped carry on this tradition by volunteering to serve four years in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm and seven years in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

In the spirit of Native American Heritage Month, what is it about your culture that you cherish the most?

The Native American Culture has a deep-rooted respect for its history and traditions. I take great pride in learning about the history of Native Americans. As an appellate judge for the Oneida tribe, I have studied and practiced the laws unique to the tribe. I cherish the honor that is placed on remaining sovereign, and, in turn, the honor given to our ancestors and the elders of the tribe.

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