If there is one constant in aviation, it is that the industry is constantly evolving. The evolution covers not only aircraft and engine design, but also the people who run the businesses. Gretchen Jahn, the CEO of Mooney Airplane Co., is a good example.
Jahn, who joined the Kerrville, Texas-based company in late 2004, is one of the keynote speakers at the 15th annual Women in Aviation Conference slated for March 10-12 in Dallas.
She is also part of the Mooney revitalization process. The company declared bankruptcy in 2001 and the last three years have been an effort to rebuild. For Jahn, it is an opportunity to apply her passions for manufacturing and business with aviation.
Jahn became interested in aviation as a child, but didn’t give much thought to becoming a pilot until she got married and her husband earned his private pilot’s license.
“I flew along with him,” she recalls. “I learned navigation and how to work the radios, then in 1984 he was out of the country for three weeks. By the time he got back I had lined up an instructor and lessons. I got my license in four months.”
A year later she took part in her first air race.
“We were terrible!” she admits.
She is now on the board of the Air Race Classic and holds a private pilot’s license with an instrument rating. She has logged about 1,300 hours PIC. She and her husband fly a Cessna 182.
“This year I’ll be racing in a Mooney,” she says, noting that one of the perks of working at Mooney is that the company has a fleet of aircraft available for use by pilots on staff.
Jahn’s resume is diverse. She co-founded a software company in the 1980s, which led to many opportunities.
“It allowed me to do a wide variety of work in a wide variety of environments from metal fabrication to meat packing plants to new home construction to pharmaceuticals to foods to animal health care products,” she says. “The fundamental underpinnings of each business is knowing what makes the company unique and why people buy the product. And you have to get the right people and infrastructure and systems in place to succeed in the market and deliver to customer expectations and you have to do so profitably to return value to shareholders.”
Jahn is looking forward to the Women in Aviation Conference in her new role as CEO of Mooney.
“I was at the convention a few years ago in Denver,” she recalls. “This will be my first time speaking. I am looking forward to it as a way to connect with people and give some nuggets of information that people will find helpful. I am also looking forward to meeting and networking with other people in the industry to exchange views and learn their points of view.”
One of the highlights of the convention is the ability to make business connections and find mentoring opportunities. The latter is important to Jahn, who notes, “Everyone needs at least one coach. I don’t care if you are the president of the United States or the janitor of a major corporation, everyone needs a mentor.”
As far as what she plans to say when she speaks to the attendees, Jahn won’t give specifics. But she did say she’ll counsel them never to give up on their goals.
“When you give up, the game is over,” she explained. “So don’t give up.”
Women in Aviation
The 16th annual International Women in Aviation Conference will be held March10-12 at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Dallas. Besides Jahn, other keynote speakers include Colleen Barrett, CEO, Southwest Airlines; Capt. Kim Black, an Air Force B-1B bomber pilot; Ellen Engleman Connors, NTSB chairwoman; Rep. John Mica, chairman of the aviation subcommittee in the House; and General Chuck Yeager.
For more information: 386-226-7996 or .