When Jill Meyers took a ride in a family friend’s Cessna 140 at age 12, her passion for aviation sparked to life. She earned her private pilot certificate in her senior year of high school and became an operational computer systems analyst in the U.S. Air Force.
Fast forward a few decades, and Meyers has now been awarded the Katharine Wright Trophy from the National Aeronautic Association (NAA).
Launched in 1981 and bestowed jointly with the Ninety-Nines International Association of Women Pilots, the trophy honors an individual who “… has contributed to the success of others or made a personal contribution to the advancement of the art, sport, and science of aviation and space flight over an extended period of time.”
A Series of Critical Roles
Her work in the USAF took her across the Atlantic to support NATO operations in Germany, specifically the ground radar sites around the country. She deployed to Italy, and while there she supported an international exercise coordinating the participation from 12 NATO countries. From the NAA’s statement, “Meyers single-handedly identified and resolved a major computer problem, resulting in success of the operation. She received an award in recognition of her efforts in saving the mission.
She applied to the Airmen Education and Commission Program—a special program sending top candidates to college full time while they remained on active duty—after witnessing the first space shuttle launch in 1981 and wanting to join the ranks of aerospace engineers. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and spent the next 30 years in her new chosen career.
Along the way, according to the NAA, Meyers took on roles as “a lead systems engineer at Boeing on the NATO, U.S., and U.K Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) reconnaissance aircraft program, for which she was presented a prestigious Vice-Presidential award for her efforts; she served as senior program manager for Connexion by Boeing’s government and executive customers, managing mission-critical airborne communications systems for aircraft including Air Force One; and working for Northrop Grumman on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter “Lightning II” program, Meyers was one of two senior managers overseeing production and delivery of the F-35’s communications, navigation, and identification systems.”
Supporting Others Lends New Fulfillment
Meyers led the Women in Aviation International chapter in San Diego for several years, during which time she was instrumental in the planning and execution of Girls in Aviation Day. And in 2017, she left the F-35 program to work full time with Shaesta Waiz’ nonprofit organization, Dreams Soar, which supported Waiz’ goal to fly solo around the world.
As program board member and prior media/communications director and FLYING business reporter Michael Wildes recalls, “She was Shaesta’s point person during the trip and worked with the local outreach persons to ensure all those connections went well from a practical standpoint. Overall, we coordinated outreach events that reached 3,000-plus kids during the flight, and more than 11,000 following the flight the year after.”
The Trophy Presented
NAA president and CEO Greg Principato particularly enjoys honoring individuals with the Katharine Wright Trophy. “I always say the Katharine Wright Trophy goes to someone who has not only accomplished awesome things but also makes those around them better,” said Principato. “In her career and in her broader aviation activities, Jill has personified those characteristics. It will be our honor to present Jill with this wonderful award and to recognize her consequential career.”
“This award means a great deal to me as it represents my goal of being a driver of good things,” said Meyers in response to the news. “Having an impact on young people’s lives makes all of my hard work worth it. The most important thing to me is to inspire others to know that the sky is not the limit!”
Members of the 2022 Katharine Wright Trophy Selection Committee included: Darby Becker, GE Aviation; Dorothy Cochrane, 2020 Katharine Wright Trophy Recipient; Major Eleanor Morgan, 2021 Katharine Wright Trophy Recipient; Pat Prentiss, Past-President, The Ninety-Nines; Barbara Walters-Phillips, 2019 Katharine Wright Trophy Recipient; and Brian Wynne, Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
NAA will award the trophy during a special event to be determined soon.