by Jess Clackum
Jill's love for aviation began as a little girl. She built model airplanes at a very young age but a flight with a family friend in a Cessna 140 tail dragger at the age of 13 changed her life forever. From that point on she knew she wanted to fly. She used to ride her bike to the local municipal airport for flying lessons and eventually obtained her private pilot's license at the age of 17.
Jill has always been inspired by the WASP. They were a tremendous influence in her life:
"I knew about the WASP back then and was particularly enamored with Jackie Cochran. I was so impressed with her goal to build a training program for all of the interested ladies, not just selfishly getting herself up in the air. And she was the first woman to break the sound barrier! How cool is that? Knowing how hard these women fought just to fulfill their passion for flying, and to serve their country, was so inspirational to me. Knowing what they accomplished is part of why I decided to join the Air Force at the age of 19, even though I was unable to fly for them due to their rules surrounding female pilots at the time. I was still thrilled to be a member of the Air Force for eight years, supporting the mission and being part of military aviation."
Jill went on to serve 8 years in the USAF as a Computer Systems Programmer/Analyst. Stationed at Sembach Air Base in Germany, where she worked for the United States Air Forces in Europe’s 601st Tactical Control Wing, Jill was solely responsible for the success of NATO’s “Display Determination 1982”, a combined forces exercise with participation from 12 countries.
She also spent time at Offutt AFB as a computer programmer for the 1st Aerospace Communications Group, part of Strategic Air Command (SAC) Headquarters, and as a computer security analyst for the GPS satellite ground control at the 50th Space Wing at Falcon AFS where she ensured continuous up-time for the GPS network.
In the civilian world, Jill has worked for large companies such as Boeing and Raytheon in addition to a few startups, and has a wide range of experience in the development of both piloted and unmanned aircraft systems. She worked on airborne communication systems for Air Force One and the C-32/C-40 Executive VIP aircraft fleets; managed the systems engineering department at Eclipse Aviation to build and FAA certify the Eclipse 500 jet; managed upgrades to the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) ground segment, and currently manages production of communication and navigation systems for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jet.
In 2004, she joined Women in Aviation International (WAI) and became part of their outreach efforts to young people. WAI is an international association dedicated to providing networking, mentoring and scholarship opportunities for women striving for challenging careers in aviation and aerospace.
For Jill, who holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a member of the Society of Women Engineers, she was excited to give back to her community and help open doors of opportunity. In 2012, she became Founder and President of the first chapter of Women in Aviation, International (WAI) in Philadelphia. She is currently in her second year as Chapter President of the WAI in San Diego.
We thank Jill for her unwavering support of FlyGirls and dedicated service to the security of our country.
Support our WWII Women Aviators: funddreamer.com/campaigns/flygirls
Photos from WAISD's Girls in Aviation Day, San Diego, 2015