Shawnee Mission Faces: Natalie Turner, SM North grad, student author and aviation legacy

For Natalie Turner’s whole life, she has looked to the skies. Her mother, Sue Ann Turner, retired from Delta Airlines after 32 years. Her father, Mark Turner, also worked for Delta in the early 1990s. Her aunt is a flight attendant for American Airlines, and her late grandfather, Jack Turner, worked for Trans World Airlines. Aviation is, essentially, her entire life.

So when flights were grounded during the pandemic — and her summer job and internship opportunities canceled one after the other — Turner pivoted. She began the journey of writing a book about the next century of aviation moving forward from COVID-19.

An Overland Park native and 2017 SM North grad, Turner is studying at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. She spent most of last year interning in Washington D.C., first with Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and then at the Delta Airlines’ government affairs office. While working on her book this summer, she completed a remote internship with Forbes Tate Partners, also in D.C.

While working on her bachelor’s in strategic communications with a minor in leadership studies, Turner has served at the KU Student Senate. She’s slated to graduate in May 2021. After graduating, she plans to pursue a career in aviation, government affairs, media relations or corporate communications. Her dream is to work at Delta.

She also enjoys reading — particularly on aviation and art but also poetry — as well as traveling the world (pre-COVID). At age 21, she’s already been to Europe a dozen times as well as Australia, Argentina, Iceland, Canada and all over the United States.

Her book is slated to publish in spring 2021 through New Degree Press, a publishing outlet through Georgetown University.

Fun fact: Turner shared about her book-writing journey on National Aviation Day, which is Aug. 19.

After being a student journalist and writing so many school papers, one thing that I noticed about writing a book is that a book is yours. There’s no prompt. 

That’s what’s so rewarding: It’s mine and it will be a published piece of my own, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone who shares a similar passion of mine, or people who don’t and want to take it up and learn more about it.

When I was living in D.C. last summer, one my roommates, Jordan Fox — she goes to Penn — wrote a book. We started talking about that journey and what it looked like for her. She was like you should do this, this would be great for you.

It’s such a journey, especially with everything that has just happened. 

It’s definitely a commitment, but I felt ready, especially after being rejected from Delta because of COVID. I wanted to find a way to really just dive into my passion for the last year of college before I enter the job market and I start actively applying to try and get into the industry. 

I couldn’t think of a better way to express that to companies, for that matter. I really want to prove to anywhere that I apply that I have the dedication and the attitude to write a book about this.

I started this whole process in early May, just before finals, and I spent all of June doing research, and then I’ve spent there on out writing content.

I started writing and researching about the future of aircrafts, Boeing, Airbus, all of these varieties of things. Because of what I learned through my interviews, I quickly realized that essentially, you have no book without COVID when you’re looking at the future. 

Everything is going to change based on if we can keep people in the air. All of our sustainability efforts, buying a new fleet, the list goes on, is all dependent on if we have the financial stability to invest in those issues post-COVID.

It’s very easy to see why innovation happens through crisis. I really want to highlight how when you’re in crisis mode and you get through it, you actually realize what all you’re capable of and what all can be changed because of this. That’s what happened with 9/11.

After 9/11, TSA was created within two months. If anyone knows the government, you know that that is an insanely fast process to implement into every airport in the United States. So when I look at COVID, I’m like, well this could really become something that is extremely relevant. 

A lot of really intense things have happened from this. Moving forward, health and safety on board is going to be a huge priority, just like safety was, especially after 9/11. 

I want to take all of those feelings and thoughts that I have, taking that tension between the flying public and the airline industry, with COVID standing right in the middle, and honestly, open the door to allow for people to really see a clear view of the steps being taken, what’s going to happen in the future, and why people should not be afraid of what could happen next.

Teally, what I want to do is prove to people that they should not be afraid of flying and prove that people in charge of airlines are genuinely in their best interest. They are working day in and day out to keep people on board, and it’s not for the selfish matters of wanting to make profit. It’s to keep people in the sky, and I think that proves itself.