Sylvia Grandstaff learned to fly at the Soaring Club of Houston at thirteen. Soaring’s connection to the beauty and energy of the natural world immediately captured her spirit and has inspired two decades of personal and professional accomplishments in aviation.
She is endlessly curious, a quiet competitor with a perfectionist edge, and forever “uncomfortable with being comfortable.” This restlessness fuels her drive in aviation and puts force behind the artistry she feels in flight. Sylvia earned her commercial and flight instructor ratings in gliders while in college at Rice University and began competing in regional and national soaring competitions. After graduation from Rice, she attended medical school and in 2007 flew in the Australian Junior Nationals. She later, left medical school to join the US Army as a warrant officer and CH47-F Chinook helicopter pilot.
Sylvia deployed twice with the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and has logged over 900 combat hours in Afghanistan as a pilot in command, flight lead, air mission commander and instructor pilot. During this service time, she temporarily paused her competition soaring efforts.
Throughout her professional career, she has remained active in general aviation, and in addition to her glider and helicopter qualifications, holds multiple ratings in single- and multi-engine airplanes and seaplanes. Sylvia considers science and math as the languages of the beauty of flight, and in 2015, she was selected as the US Army’s first female warrant officer experimental test pilot and attended the United States Naval Test Pilot School.
She graduated in 2017 as a part of Class 151 and is currently stationed at the US Army’s Redstone Test Center in Huntsville, AL. She is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and her current work is focused on flight testing multiple variants Sylvia is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and her current work is focused on flight testing multiple variants of the Chinook helicopter.
She lives in north Alabama with her husband, Hugh, a third-generation pilot, on an idyllic grass airstrip on Moontown Airport and flies a Discus 2a, “Xray Papa.”
Sylvia connects with anything or anyone with wings, and can always be found looking skyward.
1.What are your training and preparation plans before attending the upcoming 2020WWGC?
My training plans this year have included flying the Club Class Nationals and Pan American Gliding Championships. I kept notes during the flying at Keepit and will review those prior to heading back out.
2.If you have participated in a previous WGC and/or pre-WGC what is the biggest insight you came away with, which you plan to apply to this WWGC?
The biggest insight during pre-WWGC was the understated technical nature of the flying there- a mix of extremely large agricultural fields, regions with mountains, and large expanses of scrub (“The Pilliga”), all which drove very different localized weather phenomena in their proximity depending on wind direction and atmospherics.
3.Why do you want to fly for the US Team?
As a lifelong and professional aviator, I’m proud to fly for the US Team along with Kathy and Sarah to represent the breadth of abilities and backgrounds we have in US Women’s soaring. It has always been a lifelong goal to compete at the world level, and I feel very grateful to have the opportunity to go to Australia with the team.
Melanie is strictly ground crew (N1K), but is an avid lover of the sport. She is the ussoaringteams.org web master and loves new ideas so feel free to ask questions, offer suggestions, and give her additional content!