A CAP Love Story: Airborne Romance Blossoms in California
“Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man,” Orville Wright said. “Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see ...”
The same could be said of real love, a thing seemingly too heavenly for mortal men and women.
But sometimes, heartstrings zing and the perfect person makes eye contact in an unlikely place – like Civil Air Patrol mission aircrew school.
Just ask Capt. Jenny Lynn Burnett and 1st Lt. Travis Carney of the California Wing. Both are CAP mission pilots.
Burnett is a production accountant for the film industry, working on modern-day hits like “Lincoln” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” She joined CAP in 2004 and is an advocate for the Ninety-Nines, the organization for women pilots that Amelia Earhart founded.
She’s also the primary diversity officer for the California Wing as well as a a member of Hawker Senior Squadron 128, based at Van Nuys Airport.
Carney is a web application developer and a musician; instruments of all sorts fill the couple’s log home in the mountains. He joined CAP as a cadet, left after two or three years and rejoined as a senior member in 2015.
He’s commander of Cable Composite Squadron 25, serves as IT officer for inland Empire Group 3 and conducts training in aerial photography and CAP’s small Unmanned Aerial Systems program (sUAS).
Love stories happen every day—across crowded rooms, in gin joints, in Sunday school classes and on social media.
But the Burnett-Carney story is something else, especially as one of love in the time of COVID-19. In fact, the couple—married June 28—has already been on three honeymoons.
“It’s very unique for two CAP mission pilots to find love,” Burnett said.
A mutual good friend in their mission aircrew ground school class introduced them, Carney recalled.
"We were introduced in the parking lot. He carpooled in and lived about an hour away from where the class was,” Burnett said. “The class was in my neck of the woods, and most of the people there were people I knew … I started talking to him because he was the only person I didn’t know in the class.”
“I was sitting at a table by myself,” Carney said. “She’s the one that initiated it. She came up and invited me to come sit at their table.”
After the class, the pair connected on social media and established a friendship.
“I offered to fly her out to the flying portion of mission aircrew school,” Carney said. “That was my pretense for asking her out.”
“We were just getting to know each other,” Burnett said, “but the feeling was mutual.”
The two dated for nine months before Carney proposed.
“We knew we were meant for each other, simply because we have so much in common,” Burnett said. “It’s very rare that two pilots meet each other volunteering for things that we love already. We have everything in common but our day jobs.”
It doesn’t hurt that both are tall – he’s 6-foot-5, she’s 5-foot-10 – or that Carney has his own plane and would wine and dine her with romantic trips and other adventures.
“He lured me in with that ‘Oh, let’s go flying sometime,’” Burnett said.
“That’s how I got her,” Carney said.
But the feeling was mutual. “It was like ‘Wow!’,” Burnett said.
The couple tried to keep their relationship on the down-low to their CAP colleagues, working to keep things professional.
“Some people had no idea,” she said.
“Some people saw right through it,” he said.
And the rest is history. Like solid aircrews, the couple finishes each other’s sentences. The aviation term for it is “crew resource management.” The same can be true in marriage.
“When you fly with an aircrew that gets along really well, it’s really an amazing thing,” Burnett said. “Everything clicks. Travis and I had that, not only because we were dating, but because we work so well as an aircrew.”
And in their relationship as well. Their first honeymoon was a 3,300-mile road trip through nine states, visiting five national parks.
Burnett and Carney may have found the key to a long-lasting marriage.
Says Burnett: “Sometimes I’m the pilot. Sometimes he’s the pilot.”
And Carney jokingly closes: “Sometimes, we’re both the pilot.”
Their love story is indeed one that soars, in more ways than one.