Five on the Fly: Susan Carastro

Five on the Fly: Susan Carastro

Five on the Fly: Susan Carastro


WHO: Susan Carastro

Veterinary Ophthalmologist, Owner-Pilot

West Palm Beach, FL (LNA)




1. Can you describe your introduction to general aviation? 

Aviation is in my DNA. My father was a pilot in the Air Force while my mother got her private ticket in 1956 and was a member of the Civilian Air Patrol. As kids, every Sunday after church, my family would go out to the airport to fly and hang around other pilots. My father instructed my brother and me from a very young age, so we actually earned our pilot’s license before our driver’s license. I can remember sitting on top of cushions to reach the rudder pedals. 

While my brother went on to become an airline pilot (and now owns a flight school in Biloxi, Mississippi), I attended veterinary school and took a hiatus from flying. Later when I moved to south Florida, I promised my mother I would visit her in Alabama once a month. But invariably, my airline flight would be late or cancelled. That’s when I realized I should get back into flying and fly myself.  

2. What led to the purchase of your aircraft? Your typical mission?

After adding my multi-engine rating, I planned to rent an airplane from the local flight school, but as it turned out, I did not meet their required hours. So, I decided to find my own airplane (which my father quickly asserted needed to be a twin-engine if I was going to be doing any night flying). A friend of mine through the Ninety-Nines found my Cessna 310R. I loved it, bought it and haven’t looked back. I have owned it almost nine years now, flying all over the Southeast for veterinary appointments and personal trips to visit family. Key West is an area I fly to regularly to see patients and provide consulting.

Susan Carastro and her mother competing in the Air Race Classic.

3. How does aircraft ownership benefit and enhance your career in veterinary medicine? 

There are only 450 veterinary ophthalmologists around the entire country, so aviation allows me to be more consistent and more available for appointment days. I can provide specialty care to four-legged animals all over the South, specifically less populated areas hard to reach by commercial travel (while being much more reliable than the airlines). It also helps that I can come and go as I please, and I am never rushing off to catch a flight. Clients are often impressed I fly myself, but I just look at is a family tradition.  

4. You and your mother have now competed in the Air Race Classic for 18 consecutive years. What led to (and has kept) this tradition? 

My mother and I were looking for an activity to do together and instead of a cruise or traveling commercially, we decided to sign up for the Air Race Classic. She had competed in the Powder Puff Derby in 1960 and enjoyed the flying and competitive aspect. Though my father was not a fan of the idea at first, we convinced him that it is very controlled and safe. And once the first race came around, he was there with navigation maps spread everywhere and keen to help. 

Today, around 55 teams compete with two to three women per team. It’s really been a fun thing for my mother and me to share and connect. She’s going to be 90 this year and says it’s going to be her last race, but she has said that every year the past five years! 

5. Can you describe one of the most unusual or exciting airports you have ever landed? 

Every air race is a different experience, and emergencies can obviously happen at any time. On this particular day, we were performing really well until a big red annunciator come up on the Cessna 182’s G1000 while flying over Texas. So, we decided to land at a nearby crop duster field and check the oil. 

The runway was about 2,000 feet long, and as soon as we landed, three or four trucks came charging toward us with clouds of dust billowing up from behind them. Our visitors were eager to help and find out what we were doing, where we were headed, etc. They just wanted to talk while we were hurriedly trying to get back in the air. The oil turned out to be fine –just a sensor issue. Finally, we said our goodbyes, took off and jumped back into the race. Certainly, an unexpected stop in the middle of nowhere Texas. 

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