the day,” she says. Through Cessna
she earned a Bachelor’s in Business
Administration and Human Resources, and now works as the quality
manager of the Quality Engineers at
the Independence plant. “Our main
function is to make sure that we have
aircraft that leave the facility within type design. We take care of FAA
compliance,” she explains.
Laura Hilboldt was fascinated by
airplanes in her youth, and even
worked as a line girl at the airport
to finance flying lessons. She went to
Parks College, in Cahokia, Illinois,
near St. Louis, Missouri, but chose to
major in engineering because it was
more economical. After years with
Boeing as an engineer, though, she
changed her mind.
“I’m 46. I kind of had a mid-life
crisis at 41 and realized that I really
wanted to fly for a living. A flight instructor friend told me it was not too
late. I soloed at 17 but did not fly between 1980 and 2003. That’s when I
got my commercial and multiengine
ratings. Cessna has a program that
transitions lower time pilots into its
production test flight program and I
took advantage of that,” she says.
But it wasn’t all that easy. “It was a
good year and a half before I got a call
to interview at Cessna after applying,”
she recalls.” Turns out that I didn’t get
hired for the first job I interviewed for,
however, they looked for a place for me to fit in,” she says. “Even
when I interviewed they asked me why I was leaving Boeing
and I said I wanted to work as a pilot, and they said, that’s okay.
The HR person did say, though, “don’t be disappointed if you
aren’t hired as a pilot.” But they did eventually let me go there.
At Cessna they are willing to help you get there,” she says. And
“get there” she did. With Cessna’s new Associate Test Pilot Program Hilboldt was able to transition from a production position
into a Test Pilot position with a little more than 500 hours of flying under her belt. She was the only female test pilot at the Independence, Kansas, plant at the time of this writing.
In Wichita, Kansas, at Cessna Aircraft’s Corporate headquar-
ters and the site of several more of the company’s production
lines, Tracey Robinson, a Six Sigma Black Belt, whose job it is
to examine and determine process improvements throughout
the production lines, remembers how she started at the company with just an Associate’s degree in Business. “My first job
here was as a general clerk,” she says. But Cessna’s generous
education stipend (up to $5200 a year) allowed her to go back
to school for her Bachelor’s degree in business. “I went from
a general clerk up through all the quality engineering ranks
and I dealt primarily with the FAA and helped write some of
our orders. I thought that would be my life, until I was offered
director of Interiors and then, electrics. I was so pleased,” she
Avionics is a constant churn because we are
constantly upgrading. That’s the challenging part
of the job, to keep up with the technology.