I live and breathe aviation – I’ve wanted to fly airplanes since I was a kid, even though no one in the family owned or flew airplanes – and I wanted to take my love of science and math and put it in use working on airplanes.
– Stephanie Smith
With these words, our Senior Engineer, Stephanie Smith, explains the origins of a childhood passion she has brought to life and used to influence others. What started as a spark of interest, in a way she could combine her math and science skills, has since seeped into every aspect of Stephanie’s life. In turn, she brought that passion to others and continues to build her skills. She has been working in the aviation field for 15 years, and brings her expertise forward every day in her work at Momentum.
Describing herself as a “Midwesterner at heart,” Stephanie is originally from Michigan. She moved to the west coast in 1995 – the same year she started building her first airplane. She assisted in building an Avid Bandit and worked on several other build projects, including an ultralight Piper Cub replica at 2/3 scale, a complete ultralight TEAM Airbike, and an RV-10. She has a Glastar kit waiting for her, but is pouring all of her spare time into completing her dissertation.
Her dissertation is the final step in what has been a long and successful academic career for Stephanie. In 2013, she received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Oregon State University. Her senior design project focused on preliminary wing design criteria. She worked to optimize the wing of an RV-8 to maximize speed in pursuit of a world record.
In 2009, she earned an M.B.A. in Applied Aviation Management from Daniel Webster College. There, her thesis explored technically advanced general aviation aircraft accidents. She expects to complete her dissertation in 2018, earning her a Ph.D. from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Her research focuses on portable technology influences on weather-related general aviation aircraft accidents. She will consider the completion of this degree her biggest accomplishment so far.
In addition to working on airplanes, Stephanie takes to the skies herself. She earned her Private Pilot Certificate in 2005 and co-owns a Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk with her husband (who is also a pilot).
While Stephanie has filled both her hobbies and her studies with aviation, what really sets her apart is her drive and ability to share her knowledge with others. She and her husband, both active members of the Oregon Pilots Association, have made aviation a big part of their family life by taking on the responsibility of running a newsletter for Avid Aircraft builders and participating in events at their local airport in Albany, Oregon. They especially enjoy the Northwest Art & Air Fair.
She also brings her passion and expertise to the next generation by supporting ground operations for the EAA Young Eagles flights, which helps spark an interest in flying for a group of 200-300 kids each year. One year, Stephanie took a group of seven of these kids into the air and looks forward to more such opportunities to share her passion in the future.
Stephanie also doesn’t shy away from the nuts and bolts of her work. In fact, when asked what she would do even if she didn’t get paid for it, she responded with “certification plans and compliance summaries.” She sees this planning and organization as a crucial part of bringing a project full circle, allowing a path for clear communication from the initial planning to the final results of a project.
Looking to the future, Stephanie has a lot of plans. She will be relocating to Texas soon, and she plans to seek out ways to get involved in aviation advocacy programs in her new home as soon as possible. She also plans to use her Ph.D. to the fullest potential, noting that it has been rare for her to find instructors who have extensive and current industry experience. This is a gap she hopes to help fill by providing collegiate level instruction on a part-time basis. She has dedicated her life to seeing safe and positive outcomes from the aviation industry, and she sees her educational attainment as a way to pass that goal forward and spread it further.
Her passion for sharing her expertise and working well with others make her a valuable asset for Momentum. She joined the team in 2016 and notes that while the variety of work is engaging, what she really likes best is the chance to work with a great team. She appreciates that Momentum handles every project holistically and works with experts across the company to make sure that the work is done with transparency and honesty.
Even though Stephanie coordinates with the Momentum team remotely, she is able to foster meaningful relationships with the other teammates and her clients. These qualities allow her to communicate clearly with her team and problem-solve to ensure the job is done to completion and to the highest standards.