When an individual has a natural passion for something, we often say it’s “in their blood.” For WMU students Suzie and Annie Targosz, this saying can be taken literally. Aviation is generations deep in their DNA.
Annie, a freshman at WMU, and Suzie, a junior, are first cousins. Their fathers, Steve and Andrew Targosz, are identical twins who began flying before they could drive. Both men currently fly as Captains with United Airlines. Amazingly, Andrew and Steve both met their wives, Nancy and Tricia, while the two women were working as flight attendants. Steve calls this coincidence one of many “twin things.” Nancy also has her Private Pilot license and she and Andrew’s oldest son, Jim, was recently hired at Republic Airlines. Their youngest son, Henry, is in high school and also expresses an interest in becoming a pilot.
Steve and Andrew inherited the aviation bug from their mother. As a young girl growing up on the south side of Chicago, their mom had always wanted to fly, but did not have the money or the resources to fulfill this dream. And, not to mention, at the time females were even less prevalent in the profession than they are now. With the cards stacked against her, Steve and Andrew’s mother never got to be a pilot, but what she did do is buy her children model airplanes and share her passion with them. She saved every aviation article that she could find and even tried to memorize the nomenclature associated with airplanes. When Steve and Andrew began flight training, she drove them to and from the airport every weekend and asked to hear all about their experiences.
The twins’ aviation careers first began when they worked with the Boy Scouts of America while attending Saint Rita High School. Steve and Andrew were a part of the Aviation Air Explorer Post that met at Chicago Midway Airport once a month. After that, the twins got the opportunity to attend Camp Chaffee in Arkansas to learn how to fly. During the two-week camp, they attended ground school taught by Army Instructors and got their first 10 hours of flight instruction. To quote Steve, at that point, “The dream was on.”
After graduating high school, Andrew and Steve enrolled in Lewis University where they continued their dream by completing flight training and attending classes. They pledged Alpha Eto Rho during their freshman year and served as President and Vice Present during their senior year. Both Steve and Andrew also worked as line boys for RD Aviation at Lewis Lockport Airport and held CFI positions for $12.00 per hour. While at Lewis, the brothers started an Intercollegiate Flight Team. Their team took 4th place in 1977.
Both Andrew and Steve worked for other airlines after graduating from Lewis University, but eventually ended up together again at United Airlines. Andrew first started with United as a Flight Engineer on the B727 in 1985. Steve accepted the same position in 1992.
When asked to describe their experience as pilots, Andrew explained that for him it is “something very special” to be able to fly around the world and see places “from London, to Singapore, to the Middle East to deploy troops.” He also noted that one highlight for him has been flying as Captain on the B747-400. Steve echoed very similar sentiments as his brother (that twin thing, again). He described being a Captain as “unbelievable” and said it is a job that makes the world seem like a smaller place.
“Having dinner in Singapore or breakfast in Frankfurt on your overnights is something most people rarely get to do and have to spend a lot of money to enjoy, but for pilots, it is one of the many ‘perks’ of the profession. I have also flown many military missions throughout the Middle East. Being part of this operation, and having the opportunity to serve our country is truly an honor.”
Neither Steve nor Andrew was certain that their children would take after them and get involved in aviation, but now that its happening, they both report immense happiness and pride.
For Suzie, the aviation bug took ahold of her early. She went on her first flight when she was 8-years-old, fell in love with the feeling, and never looked back. After taking a tour of WMU during high school, Suzie was certain this was the place where she would go to school and take the next steps toward her aviation career. Suzie is now an ambassador for the College of Aviation, a three-year member of the WMU Dance Team, and a member of Alpha Eta Rho.
For Annie, the decision to pursue aviation was a bit more difficult. While she was always interested in airplanes and loved attending Oshkosh and other fly-ins and airshows with her family throughout her life, she also had an interest in pursuing education during high school. After taking the time to do her research, talking to family members, and completing a teaching internship, Annie decided that she wanted to accomplish what her grandmother did not have the opportunity to do – become a pilot.
Now, Annie is almost finished with her first year at WMU and is already involved in Women in Aviation, Alpha Lambda Delta, and Alpha Eta Rho. Steve reported being thrilled that Annie is getting so involved at college, but jokingly mentioned he hopes his daughter stays away from the skydiving club for her mother’s peace of mind.
Suzie and Annie had nothing but positive things to say about the experience of attending college together. Annie described how helpful it was to have Suzie share her knowledge about WMU while she was still making her decision about which school to go to. She also mentioned how it was comforting to know Suzie when she first began classes because she did not know anyone else in Kalamazoo yet.
Suzie said she loves having the opportunity to share her insight with Annie and has been grateful to be able to see her more often around the airport as ambassadors. Suzie also expressed that she is really excited to watch Annie grow and progress through the program.
Both cousins also shared how helpful it has been to have their fathers' endless support and to be able to talk to them as they go through school and flight training. Suzie mentioned that she likes to call her dad after every flight to discuss how it went.
A favorite memory of hers is calling him to tell him she completed her Private Pilot certificate. His reaction to the good news is one she will never forget.
Annie also noted that she truly looks up to her father and hopes to be at least almost as good of a pilot as he is someday. She loves to hear his stories ask him questions about the industry.
What’s next for the Targosz family of aviators? Simply put – they want to keep flying together!
Steve and Andrew both expressed the hope that the next generation of Targosz pilots will be able to work together and look out for each other, just like they did. More specifically, they hope their kids can all fly with United someday. And, much like they share their DNA, Annie and Suzie share this dream with their fathers.