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Cinderella the Test Pilot

Senior Center Aviation Talks Continue

Patricia Doheny | Jan 2, 2013, 1:15 a.m.
Emily Biss

Emily Biss, production test pilot for Boeing, discovered aviation when she was six. At an airshow where a Tiger Moth, WW1 era biplane was giving rides, Emily went “bonkers” begging to be allowed to fly in the plane. The sixty-year old plane was made of fabric and wood. Her parents said no.

But they said yes to Emily’s interests, telling her she could do anything she wanted to. They frequently took her to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. where she roamed the Air and Space museum

With an eye on finding a career in Aerospace, Emily majored in Mechanical Engineering in college. In her spare time she flew recreationally and got her commercial airlines pilot. Out of college, she was hired by Lockheed as an engineer. But she didn’t like the work even though the pay and benefits were good. She wanted a career in flying. She left the engineering job and began working full-time as a flight instructor for a modest wage and no benefits.

She later hired on with Scenic Airlines and then Horizon, flying small passenger planes.

Interested in the more technical aspects of flying, she kept looking for another job. She read an article about Boeing production test pilots and when Boeing had an opening, Biss applied. Two weeks later she was a production test pilot.

Biss’s job is to pilot a crew for the first flight of new planes built by Boeing. Usually back-up systems kick in if something is malfunctioning. About once a year a plane must return to the airport early because of a problem. Once the plane has met Boeing standards, Biss shepherds the buyers, many from other countries, through their first flight on the plane. Cinderella time! Often they are surprised the test pilot is a woman and end up asking for her autograph or having a picture taken with her.

Biss attributes her success to her parent’s faith in her ability to become whatever she wanted to be, to her natural analytical mind, and to her passion for flying, which made sacrifices worth the effort.

Biss will be speaking about her career as a production test pilot on Feb. 5th 2013, at Des Moines Activity Center, 2045 S. 216th St in Des Moines. For information, call 206-878-1642. Suggested donation $2 which benefits the senior center.

This article appeared in the January 2013 issue of Northwest Prime Time, the Puget Sound region’s monthly publication celebrating life after 50.

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