Viasat leader inspires girls toward aviation careers as part of Girls in Aviation Day event

The company’s Jessica Woodlins talks about the importance of women being part of the aviation industry


Viasat co-sponsored this year’s Girls in Aviation Day, designed to encourage girls to consider aviation as a career. Like almost all 2020 events, this one went virtual. Instead of the usual day-long conference, the event kicked off Sept. 26 when the free Aviation for Girls app went live.

Available to anyone, the app lets its viewersexperience the Sixth Annual Girls in Aviation Day through video demonstrations; links to books about aviation; aerospace and STEM education; virtual tours of an airport and aviation museum; and an airplane and blimp cockpit.

Other options included videos from positive role models, among them Viasat’s Director of Aircraft Engineering and Certification Jessica Woodlins. She has a degree in industrial engineering and joined Viasat in 2014, working her way up from new product engineer to her current position.

Woodlins was initially attracted to Viasat’s technology and vision.

“The global aspect of Viasat in serving and connecting people around the world is super important to me personally, so that’s what drew me to the company,” she said. “What’s had me stay here over time has been the culture and the people, how we interact as a team and solve problems together.”

Woodlins works with teams that install the components required to receive and deploy service from the satellite on commercial planes.

“I am here to help lead and help my team solve problems,” Woodlins said. “The day-to-day for me includes discussing designs and development projects, as well as listening to my team about their recommendations on how to implement or solve a problem, and put the right solution together for our customer base.”

One of the highlights of Woodlins’ career was the day a Viasat team gained the first Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for the company’s Gen-2 in-flight internet equipment.

To install Viasat equipment on an aircraft, an operator can leverage one of Viasat’s current STCs or obtain a new one.

The Gen-2 equipment enables a plane to access service across Viasat’s satellite platforms: ViaSat-1, WildBlue-1, Anik F2, ViaSat-2 and its most advanced ViaSat-3 satellites — coming on line in the next few years. Gen-2 equipment is optimized to accommodate the massive capacity increases that will be available with ViaSat-3.

“That was a big step for the company in terms of being able to provide the solutions our customers want,” Woodlins said. “I was able to complete that project end-to-end, and see all the different stages it takes to both develop a satellite communications terminal and then put it on an aircraft and see it work.”

Encouraging women in aviation

Aviation is a male-dominated field, but Woodlins encouraged other women to not be deterred.

“One of the biggest challenges I had was being taken seriously,” she said. “But once I got to a point where people understood and saw my value, the contributions I can bring regardless of my gender, I think that is really when I started to enjoy the job a lot more.

“My advice for young women is to learn about the different sets of technologies they’re interested in, ask a lot of questions and just keep pushing forward.”

Woodlins also urged young women to delve into their preferred career area.

“Start learning about the particular area you’re interested in,” she said. “Do a lot of research – what type of aircraft there are, what they do, how they’re made, who uses that aircraft. Learn what the problems are in that area or field. Start thinking about ways to solve them. At the end of the day, that’s what you do in the workplace.”

Girls in Aviation Day is presented by Women in Aviation International, a nonprofit dedicated to the encouragement and advancement of women in commercial and business aviation career fields and interests.

Content on the Aviation for Girls app is created for a self-paced learning experience for ages 8-17. It’s available any time, and new content will be added periodically. To get it, visit the App Store or Google Play and search for WAI Events. More information is also available on the Women in Aviation website here.