top of page

Hawaiian Airlines Mother-Daughter Pilot Duo Hits The Skies

Motherly advice is part of growing up, but it's a little different when mom is sitting in the left-hand seat of a jetliner, and you're in the right one. Last Friday, that happened on a Hawaiian Airlines aircraft when a mother and daughter took the controls of a B717 for a day of Pacific flying.

Captain Kamelia Zarka and her daughter, First Officer Maria Zarka, shared the flight deck of the Boeing B717 to operate a series of Neighbor Island flights. This was the first a mother-daughter pairing had flown for Hawaiian Airlines (Hawaiian) in its 93-year history. The pair, looking equally proud of each other and suitably decked out with a lei, greeted passengers at boarding, shared selfies and encouraged young girls to follow their dreams to the cockpit.

Two role models flying together

Kamelia has been with Hawaiian for three decades, joining the airline as a flight attendant in 1992. She was born and raised in the Kingdom of Tonga and became the first Tongan woman to captain a commercial airliner. After joining Hawaiian, she set her mind to earning her pilot's wings, and after stints at regional carriers, she rejoined Hawaiian in 1999 as a flight engineer on a McDonnell Douglas DC-10. She later moved to the Boeing B767 transpacific fleet as a first officer before becoming a B717 Neighbor Island fleet captain.

Kamelia is a passionate advocate and role model for women in aviation, which has demonstrably rubbed off on her two daughters, Maria and Kaimana. She said that flying for Hawaiian Airlines with Maria, side-by-side in the cockpit, was a dream come true.

"I always knew Maria would be a fantastic pilot - she's always been brilliant and professional - but sitting next to her as she flew the plane with such skill and ease still blew me away."

In the hard slog to gain licenses and build hours, Kamelia spent time flight instructing, often taking Maria with her on flights. "Those flights and the traveling we did on my non-revenue benefits with Hawaiian Airlines seem to have stimulated Maria's desire to fly. Then Kaimana, my youngest daughter, caught the bug after flying with her sister and later in high school, she too decided to become a pilot.

It's now Captain Mom on the 717 flight deck

Before joining Hawaiian as a 717 pilot in April, Maria flew with US carrier Republic Airways in New Jersey for two years. Maria said that people were always telling her how amazing it is to fly with her mom, and now she has also experienced that. "She's an amazing pilot, and learning from her is learning from one of the best. Now I call her Captain Mom."

"I feel fortunate to have a mom who cares so much and has worked hard to pave the way for other females and me as the first Tongan female to captain a commercial airline. And now it's my turn. I'm looking forward to continuing my mom's legacy while making my own mark as a Hawaiian Airlines pilot."

Kaimana is following the same path, studying aeronautical science at Emery-Riddle University in Arizona. She has gained her private and instrument licenses and is well on the way to joining her mum and sister in the cockpit at Hawaiian. With their own three-person flight crew, the Zarkas would be ideally suited to the DC-10, the same aircraft Kamelia kicked off her piloting career at Hawaiian Airlines.

If you are ever flying around the Hawaiian Islands keep an eye out for these two inspiring pilots.

This article originally appeared on Simple Flying

5 views0 comments


bottom of page