You have been with Cirrus Aircraft since 2006. How did you get started in aviation?
My love for aviation started when I saw the first Top Gun in 1986. Watching the flying scenes planted a seed in my brain, and from then on I had a singular goal: to become a pilot. After graduating from MIT and launching my career as a software developer for an investment bank, I started flying lessons at my local airport and never looked back. After spending eight years in the software industry, I pivoted to an aviation career.
I joined Cirrus Aircraft in 2006 as a regional sales director in Salt Lake City, UT, responsible for new and pre-owned aircraft sales, development of the Cirrus training and service network, and demonstration flights of Cirrus aircraft in the Northern Rockies territory. In 2011, I continued my aircraft sales career in Seattle, WA where I covered the Pacific Northwest, Western Canada and Alaska. In 2014, I transitioned to a role on the marketing team as product line manager and subsequently director.
My current role at Cirrus Aircraft is Director, SR Product Line in Knoxville, TN, overseeing the company’s piston product roadmap development and product marketing. Over my 16-year career at Cirrus Aircraft, I have earned my seaplane rating, tailwheel and formation flying endorsements , and a Vision Jet type rating. I have over 5,000 flight hours and am the proud owner of an American Champion Citabria 7GCBC.
What influenced the SR Series interior and exterior design?
The very first SR design was influenced by a desire for a safe and comfortable pilot and passenger experience in a plane that could carry more and go faster and farther than the competitive aircraft on the market at the time — that was in the early 90s.
Cirrus Aircraft co-founders loved the look of composite kit planes like the Glasair, and they wanted to make a plane that was simple for a pilot to fly but also make passengers feel safe and comfortable. Large windows that increased visibility and let in lots of light, and two large doors for easy ingress and egress inspired the rest of the aircraft design. They also wanted a flight deck that was simple yet powerful — something that enhanced the pilot’s situational awareness but also was easy for a passenger to interpret. Putting passengers at ease by displaying the aircraft location on a moving map and information like distance to destination and fuel remaining at the destination was very important to the initial flight deck design. Lastly, the plane was built around having a whole airframe parachute in case of emergency. One of Cirrus Aircraft’s co-founders was involved in a mid-air collision during flight training prior to starting the company. That experience sparked the idea for t the Cirrus Airframe Parachute Systems (CAPS).
The Cirrus SR Series has an incredible history of innovation, design and capability. Tell us more about the evolution of this series and how you have contributed?
Cirrus Aircraft began as a kit aircraft company. The first aircraft we designed and sold was the VK-30 kit (non-FAA certified) plane. This was a great learning experience and inspired us to develop the SR20, a more approachable airplane that was easy to fly and also FAA certified. We delivered the first SR20 in 1999, and two years later, we introduced the SR22, a higher speed and performing SR.
In 2010 we brought the SR22T to market, a turbocharged version of the SR. Throughout the years, we have continued to introduce features that enhance safety, comfort, convenience and performance, as well as programmes to improve and simplify the ownership experience. We are now offering the Generation 6 SR Series.
I joined Cirrus Aircraft in 2006 and started selling the Generation 2 SR20 and SR22. As a sales director, I introduced hundreds of people to aviation and grew the Cirrus Aircraft owner population by flying as many pilots and non-pilots in a brand-new Cirrus Aircraft model as I could. During that time, we introduced new generations of the SR series (G3-G5) and game-changing new features like the Cirrus Perspective by Garmin integrated flight deck, certified flight into known icing (FIKI) capability, a new model (SR22T), a digital autopilot with Enhanced Stability Protection (ESP) and the Blue LVL Button (which keeps the aircraft straight-and-level if the pilot is in need of a re-set).
Once I moved into a product line position on the marketing team, I had a more direct role in shaping the product roadmap. Notably, introducing the concept of providing transition training to all Cirrus Aircraft buyers which evolved into the Cirrus Embark programme. We also created Cirrus IQ, enabling owners to remotely connect to their aircraft by mobile app. I work closely with our engineering team and strategic suppliers to bring new and innovative features to the SR Series that are meaningful to our owners and was integral in bringing the Generation 6 SR Series aircraft to market.
A unique feature that all Cirrus aircraft are equipped with is the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), which includes a total airframe parachute to safely guide the aircraft to the ground in the event of an emergency. Do you think Cirrus Aircraft has influenced safety innovation within the GA sector and among consumers?
Absolutely. Yes, CAPS is a tremendous safety feature that has had a meaningful impact on hundreds of people and, to this day, is still a one-of-a-kind innovation on FAA-certified airplanes. We’re still the only FAA -certified plane with a parachute. Additionally, Cirrus Aircraft’s focus on training has remarkably influenced General Aviation’s safety innovation.
Cirrus Aircraft has combined technological innovation with a culture of safety-centric initial and continued education. Many standard safety features like ESP, auto-descent, hypoxia alert, Blue LVL Button, airbag seatbelts, and synthetic vision have become standard or optional features in other General Aviation aircraft.
Cirrus Aircraft has also focused on building a robust network of Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilots (CSIP’s), online training materials, and Cirrus Training Centers (CTC’s) cultivating a community that is focused on safety.
Aside from safety, do you see any other major trends right now in the personal aviation industry?
We are seeing a trend toward comfort, convenience and style. Of course, our owners expect a well-built, high-performing, safe and high-quality aircraft — that is a given. But owners want more than that. They demand comfort for both pilot and passengers, and an in-flight experience that rivals a luxury sedan. They also want to make it unique — almost a reflection of their personality. An aircraft purchase is often personal and very emotional, so the aircraft not only needs to fit the mission but also needs to fuel the passion. A variety of exterior and interior colour choices and designs encourage owners to express themselves through their Cirrus Aircraft models.
Who has inspired/mentored you and influenced your career?
The list is long! My family has always been extremely supportive of me chasing my aviation dreams. My mom inspires me to be open-minded, bold and unapologetic about trying things. Jeff Tworek was a sales manager and mentor during my software days — he had a unique ability to diffuse challenging situations using humour, humility and his over-the-top personality. I have always tried to emulate his style. Heike Larson was the sales manager who hired me at Cirrus Aircraft — she was strong, poised, intelligent and a great example of who I could become and a great female mentor in our male-dominated industry. Wilma Melville and I became friends in her late 70s, and I was in my early 40s — she flew me into backcountry Idaho in her Citabria and introduced me to a whole new side of aviation that I continue to love today. There are too many people to list. I have been fortunate to meet (and continue to meet) so many amazing people!
As a pilot yourself, what is your favourite aspect of flying?
The freedom to explore places that most people don’t get to see, the perspective of seeing things from the air, and the people I’ve met along the way. I guess that is three favourites!
Aside from flying, your other passions include adventure racing, cycling, skiing and running. How do you find enough time to enjoy all these activities?
I’ve always believed that you make the time for your passions. I don’t always make the time for all of these things at once — it’s a bit seasonal. I am lucky that I have a very supportive family and my husband shares my passion for flying and cycling so that helps that we do that together!
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