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Officer Profile: Ensign Sarah Cozart, NOAA Pilot

A female NOAA Corps pilot on the flight deck of a Twin Otter aircraft

In this NOAA Corps officer profile, we catch up with NOAA Twin Otter pilot Ensign Sarah Cozart, who is currently assigned to the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, Florida.

How did you become interested in science and aviation?

I knew I wanted to be a pilot when I was nine years old. My grandfather had been a military pilot in World War II and I had read so many books about the adventures of flight. A career in aviation sounded like the most amazing job as a kid. When I experienced flying in a small airplane on a discovery flight when I was 15. It solidified that this was what I wanted to do. Regarding the science aspect, I have always been passionate about the preservation, protection, and conservation of nature, wildlife, and our planet. In addition to a degree in aeronautics, I majored in environmental studies and really saw NOAA as a blend of my two passions.

How did you hear about the NOAA Corps?

I was flying for a regional airline when I heard about the “Hurricane Hunter” mission. I researched how to be a pilot for that mission and was directed to the NOAA Corps. Soon after, I found the NOAA booth at the Women in Aviation International Conference in 2020 and was able to speak with pilots and recruiters and better understand what the NOAA Corps is and how to apply.

What inspired you to become a NOAA Corps officer?

The missions that the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center supports were initially the driving force behind my desire to be a pilot in the NOAA Corps. Learning more about the mission and vision of the NOAA Corps as a whole though–Science, Service, and Stewardship–inspired me to take the leap from the civilian world into the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.

What types of missions do you fly as a NOAA pilot?

I fly the DHC-6 Twin Otter. We support surveys of North Atlantic right whale, harbor seal, and Steller sea lion populations, as well as leatherback sea turtle surveys. I’ve flown Arctic heat research missions up on the north slope of Alaska, done wildfire research out of Northern California/Oregon, and coastal mapping along the east coast of the U.S. The Twin Otter is one of the most versatile platforms we have, so there are opportunities to fly many different missions on this aircraft! What do you enjoy about being a NOAA pilot? The feeling of making a difference through your flying is really what sets this job apart from other flying operations. I feel like I have a greater purpose and I am constantly challenged to grow and develop as a pilot and officer.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a NOAA Corps officer?

Do as much research as you can about the NOAA Corps and their platforms and missions beforehand to understand what you are committing to. Reach out to current and former officers who have experienced the marine side as well as aviation, depending on what your goals and interests are.  It is a different lifestyle than other military or civilian jobs, so being informed helps set you up for success. Being flexible and maintaining a positive attitude makes all the difference getting through training and successfully completing missions.

What are some of your goals for your time as a NOAA Corps officer?

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years? My goal in the next five years is to be selected to fly one of our heavy aircraft (the WP-3D Orion or the Gulfstream IV/G550 jet) and have a greater understanding of the diverse missions they support. In the next 10 years I hope to have completed my first land assignment, having gained more experience with other line offices and operations that NOAA supports, and be back at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center flying for my second operational tour.