She was nominated for the flight by one of her students who’s in the National Guard and works out of Quonset Point, where the air show is taking place. Conlon and retired New England Patriots player Matt Light were selected for the flight.
“The Blue Angels pick “key influencers” for each show and this year one of them happens to be me! Although I am quite nervous, it is going to be such a thrill,” said Conlon of West Kingston. “My dad was a Navy Pilot, so I feel like this is all coming full circle!”
After being nominated, Conlon responded to U.S. Air National Guard Capt. Stephen Major with a letter describing her background, experience and interest in the possible flight. She shared that her father was a P-3 pilot who flew out of Quonset and Ninigret many years ago and that she had attended more Air Shows than she could count. Last year, she brought her daughters to the show and they waited to get their pictures taken with the top gun pilots.
“The skill and calm under pressure that these pilots demonstrate amazes me and it is with such Navy pride that I watch the show with my Dad, and my family every year. This is a lifelong dream and one that will be such an honor and privilege to fulfill,” she wrote.
One of her friends, Donna Doyle, described Conlon as “quite an eclectic individual who not only is an academic advisor, but teaches fitness classes, runs, does cross fit, was a former probation officer and a mom of two young girls. I just was lucky enough to meet and run with Kathy!”
Conlon has been an academic advisor at URI since 2010 and earlier at the Community College of Rhode Island. After graduating from Boston College and receiving her master’s degree in criminal justice at Salve Regina University, she served for 11 years as a federal probation officer and defensive tactics instructor in Rhode Island. When not on the Kingston Campus, Conlon is a fitness instructor at the YMCA in North Kingstown.
The letter Doyle received from Major said that the Blue Angels typically provide three backseat flights for selected personnel. Each rider will fly with the number 7 pilot in the two-seat jet. Two of those riders are selected from the Key Influencer program and one is a credentialed member of the media.
The program selects individuals who shape attitudes and opinions of youth in their communities. They may be experts in their field, public figures, youth organization leaders, teachers, guidance counselors or school administrators. They are not always the person at the top of an organization, but rather individuals who have an impact on recruiting youth and/or a specific target audience.