Featuring the ultimate Swiss Army Knife of uncompromising women, Shannon Weidekamp
By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson
A person’s path to the top is never as straightforward as one might think. There can be turbulence, obstacles preventing take-off and a lack of movement within a company. Shannon Weidekamp, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Crew Aviation, faced many obstacles on her journey to her position. Still, with some perseverance and determination, she landed where she is today.
Her journey is full of twists and turns, but it begins in 1987 when she enlisted in the Marine Corp. for air traffic control. As she waited in the Delayed Entry Program for a slot to open at boot camp, the Department of Defense adopted a “Risk Rule” for women in the military in February 1988. “The rule ‘excluded women from non-combat units or missions if the risks of exposure to direct combat, hostile fire or capture were equal to or greater than the risks in the combat units they supported.’ This included most military occupational specialties involving aviation. Although I was offered a chance to go to Officer Candidate School, I declined and went a different path in March 1988 before getting a chance to ship out to boot camp,” explained Weidekamp.
Her path wavered off course from aviation for a while as she completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management and Leadership while her children were in school. In 2010, her path re-aligned with the aviation industry, and she accepted a position as a flight attendant and onboard chef on a private business aircraft. While serving in this role, she was never trained in safety and emergency procedures because under “the FAA Part 91, aircraft business or private use have no requirements for a flight attendant on board unless it’s over 19 seats,” according to Weidekamp. “I located a training company, AirCare FACTS, that specialized in corporate flight attendant training and attended. This led me to the National Business Aviation Association Flight Attendants Committee and other conferences held by NBA,” said Weidekamp. “As I learned more about the industry, I wanted to know more and contribute to developing better standards and training for flight attendants in this aviation sector. I worked with fellow business aviation flight attendants on committees, researched FAA rules and regulations and joined numerous professional organizations that revolved around the aviation industry.”
The training and conferences opened her eyes to the lack of training cabin crew members received at Crew Aviation. For example, pilots were trained in Upset or Unusual Attitude and Recovery Training, but flight attendants weren’t. So, Crew Aviation sent Weidekamp to training at Flight Research in Mojave, California, where she went through ground school and learned to fly the same flight card as pilots. “The flight was in an Aermacchi MB-326 Impala single-engine jet. It is an aerobatic aircraft utilized for jet spin, flutter testing, weapons testing and a variety of performance and flying quality test training,” explained Weidekamp. “I was also signed off for my first 90 minutes of flying as I took the controls during the first part of the flight under the instruction of former NASA astronaut William Oefelein. From experience, we developed the first and only Upset Training Program for cabin crew.”
As you can see, Weidekamp aims to make a difference in the industry and community she’s a part of. She was a member of the NBAA Flight Attendant/Flight Technician for nine years and served as Co-Chair and Chair for four years. In 2021, she stepped down to pursue other organizations like the Women In Aviation International, where she serves on the Board of Directors.
As a leader, it’s crucial to soar over obstacles preventing you from being the best you can be for yourself and your team, which is evident in Weidekamp. She left us with a piece of advice so that we can all fly to the highest altitude. “Knowledge is key to any career. There is always more to learn. Is there a need in your company or profession that isn’t being filled or addressed? Look outside the box and innovate and create. Management and leadership are two unique skills—not everyone has both. Find a mentor and be a mentor! Never stop dreaming, discovering and dreaming BIG! Not everyone will celebrate your successes 100% with you. Find and surround yourself with those people who do!”
Crew Aviation, LLC
1176 Standiford Ave.
Louisville, KY 40213