Coming in for a Landing

Coming in for a Landing

June Liston pilots 777 aircraft by day and American Quarter Horses in her off time.

June Liston

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By Abigail Boatwright for The American Quarter Horse Journal

June Liston traded riding horses to pursue a pilot’s license when she was 17. Today, she’s a captain aboard United Airline’s largest plane, the Boeing 777. When she’s not flying around the world to places like Hong Kong and Tel Aviv, the Scottsdale, Arizona, resident is back in the saddle, riding one of her two American Quarter Horses. And this week, June's competing at the 2019 Adequan® Select World Championship Show in Fort Worth, Texas.

June says 3% of all airline pilots are female – and she says that number is gradually increasing. But of that 3%, only about 0.5% are captains like June. She didn’t start out as a captain on the big planes – she worked up to it over the years.

“There are a lot of other jobs that we do – you’re a meteorologist, you’re working with load planning, you’re a manager, too,” June says. “My flights usually have a crew of 19 with flight attendants and pilots. It’s more than just flying the airplane. You have to manage a lot of people and keep everyone working together.”

Now in her 31st year with United, June primarily flies to Asia, Europe and the South Pacific. Her favorite location? Taipei. Favorite airport? The one in St. Maarten, because she gets to land right beside the ocean. She most enjoys going to faraway places, and working with great people.

The best part of flying, in June’s opinion, is landing the planes.

“I love landing, because that’s where you get to show what you can do,” June says. “It’s the fun part, where you get to finesse it a little bit.”

There’s a kind of sisterhood of female pilots in the horse world. For example, June met American Airlines’ first female captain, Beverley Bass, through a female aviation association, and the two became friends through their shared love for horses and flying. Beverley is an American Paint Horse Association reserve world champion.

“There’s a handful of us (female captains) that also ride,” June says. “We’re getting out there. We’re breaking the ceiling.”

Other than flying and riding, June helps rescue animals. On some of her flights, she transports special-needs animals – mainly dogs and cats – for rescue groups around the country.

June and her trainer, Chad Evans, brought both her show horses to the Adequan® Select World: Just Becuz Im Lazy, “Ty” a 2013 gray gelding by Lazy Loper and out of Huntin Cash by Huntin For Chocolate; and My Vital Valentine, “Fluffy,” a 2009 red roan gelding by RL Best Of Sudden and out of Vital Signs Are Good. June loves the personalities of each of her horses.

“Fluffy is just a doll – he’s the sweetest, kindest horse. He always wants to please,” June says. “Ty is young, he’s still a bit of a juvenile, and he does silly things, but he’s good and he tries.”

June’s supportive husband, retired United pilot Cory, helps hold down the fort at home and keeps things running smoothly at shows.

“I’ve been showing a lot this year, going to the top-10 shows,” June says. “I’ve been home about five days a month. It’s like fly, come home, change clothes, go back, fly somewhere, go to the barn. It’s been busy this year.”

June qualified for trail and western riding at the Adequan® Select World.