Patricia Denkler: From One Door to the Next

Patricia Denkler’s life direction has no road map-only doors. As the doors open, she says “yes” and then passionately goes through. When a friend offered her a flight in a 1946 taildragger that left from a grass airstrip, it was a door-opening experience that forever shaped her life and her journey in aviation. 

In 1977, Patricia was invited by a friend to a squadron function in Jacksonville, FL (“yes”) where she met the late, then Commander, John McCain, CO of VA-174. And she had since become co-owner of an Aeronca Champ which she hangared in St. Augustine. Encouraged by CDR McCain to apply to the Navy Flight Program (“yes”), she became one of the earliest female Naval Aviators. In 1981, she became the first woman to land a jet on an aircraft carrier, and in 1982, Patricia was the first woman to land a combat jet on a carrier. 

“Serving my country as a Naval Officer was truly an honor that remains the most important, meaningful professional decision of my life.” In 1982, Patricia was the USO Special Citation Outstanding Young American recipient, which was awarded in conjunction with The Hon. Donald T. Regan, USO Gold Medal Award recipient, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

Encouraged to apply to the airlines (“yes”) after departing the Navy, Patricia Denkler recently retired as an international captain after piloting with Delta Air Lines for 31 rewarding, adventuresome years. Delta opened many doors for her by affording her the opportunity to become involved in various causes and organizations.

LT Patricia A. Denkler, USN. First woman to land a jet on an aircraft carrier.
September 24, 1981. TA-4J. USS Lexington, AVT-16

From politics – she was a Charter Member of Senator McCain’s “Straight Talk America” – to serving in multiple board leadership positions – she was the former Chairman of the Governor’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council appointed by Governor Mark Sanford; former President of the UWF Foundation Board of Directors and 40th Anniversary “Profiles In Leadership” recipient – she has been able to broaden her knowledge and life experiences.

“Living in Beaufort, SC for 32 years has provided me with the most gratifying and rewarding opportunities to make an attempt to give back through organizations that make a meaningful difference in the lives they reach out and touch.” She is presently serving as an advisory board member for the Beaufort County Open Land Trust, AMIkids Beaufort, and near and dear to her heart, the Pat Conroy Literary Center.

When considering who or what has inspired her through the years, Patricia, without hesitation will say, “family, dear friends, and all those she has met through the reading of books.” She continues, “Books stimulate creativity…curiosity…a potential understanding of the world and the people that surround you…hope.” 

This belief is reflected in the unpredictable libraries throughout the home where she and her husband Michael live, including books from their respective childhood, some of which are the same! There are first editions of the classics; reference books on art, writing, flying, fishing, boating; adventure books and more adventure books. Biographies, auto-biographies; fiction, non-fiction. They are all teachers, which is why this newest of doors (“yes”) may prove to be the most exciting and fulfilling of all…working as an Author Advocate for Magic Time Literary Publicity.

“It is an honor to be working with this wonderful friend who champions the mission to educate and enlighten through works of the heart. Thank you, Kathie Bennett, for opening this door.”

By Kathie Bennett

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