Women of Boeing to be celebrated

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LeanIntoAviation (3)The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour plans to celebrate the women of Boeing – those who, since 1916, were the first to work at the fledgling company, to become pilots and engineers, to fill positions on the line in World War II, and to take on leadership roles.

The event, to be held on 15 March, will include a book signing and luncheon event to kick off the publication of Trailblazers: The Women of The Boeing Company, attended by the author, Betsy Case, and many of the women featured in the book.

The book signing will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will be attended by Boeing pilots and trailblazers (short bios below) Patricia Beckman, Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann, Megan Robertson, Eleanor Dickson, Sandra Jeffcoat, Nelda Lee, Loraine Bratset, Diana Rhea and Laurette Koellner. All will be available for interviews about their experiences as women “firsts” at the company. Author Betsy Case will also be on hand during the day.

The luncheon from noon to 1:30 will be capped off by a moderated panel of these women. They will discuss what has inspired them—as women and as members of the Boeing aerospace team over the decades. The general public is invited to attend and all book signing events are free. The luncheon requires a ticket that can be purchased for $18 per person at www.womeninaviation.eventbrite.com

“These women are part of Boeing history. They remember the plant shutting down during air raids in the 1940s, flying Chinook helicopters for the first time and setting world records in Boeing 777s. They paved the way for other women for decades to come,” says Boeing.

Patricia Beckman was honored in 2010 by the Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame, for being the first woman to qualify as a crewmember in the F-15 and the first American woman to qualify as a crewmember in the F/A-18.

Loraine Bratset, the first female line supervisor at Boeing, was hired in 1943 to work as a shipping clerk in Renton. She said that her work ethic—a belief in never missing a day, always being punctual, and turning out a perfect product every time—was what helped her rise to a management position.

Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann was the first woman to join the elite Boeing Engineering Flight Test group as a test pilot, and she’s the Boeing chief training pilot for more than 550 instructors worldwide.

Eleanor Dickson started at Boeing as a junior engineer in 1949 right out of the University of Washington engineering school where she was the only woman in her class. Female wind tunnel engineers were pretty much unheard of when Dickson became what was known in the late 1940s as an aerodynamicist.

Sandra Jeffcoat was the first African American woman to become a member of the Boeing Technical Excellence Program—winner of the 2005 National Women of Color in Technology award, she is a strong believer in mentoring young women starting on the technology career path.

Laurette Koellner became the company’s highest ranking woman ever when she was appointed to the Office of the Chairman in 2002, serving as Chief People and Administration Officer.


Nelda Lee’s engineering expertise and passion for aviation led her to become the first female engineer in Flight Test Engineering for McDonnell Douglas. Ultimately becoming a licensed commercial pilot, she was the first woman to fly the F-15 Eagle.

Diana Rhea was the first female manager in Manufacturing Engineering and she currently holds the longevity record at Boeing: 71 years of uninterrupted company service as of November 2013.

Megan Robertson made Boeing history as the first female pilot to conduct a Chinook helicopter test flight.

Betsy Case, local Everett resident and award winning author of Trailblazers: The Women of the Boeing Company, describes the book as a labor of love, “It was time to acknowledge the inspiring women who helped make the company the success it is today.”  Case has been a marketing writer at Boeing for 18 years and is the author of several Boeing Store books, including In Plane View and The Jumbo Jet: Changing the World of Flight. She is also the author of Houseboat: Reflections of North America’s Floating Homes.

The Future of Flight Aviation Center & Boeing Tour is located at 8415 Paine Field Blvd., Mukilteo, WA  98275.  For more information or to schedule interviews, please contact Sandy Ward, 425-438-8100 x 223sandy@futureofflight.org