Two Aviation Stars meriting further prominence

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Two estimable aviation professionals 

  Joan Robinson-Berry and Dr. Melchor J. Antunano

Astronauts are almost commonplace. What aviation records remain that will capture the attention of the public? Captain Sullenberger received headlines for his flying skills, but the context was the minimization of the impact of an accident. Drones and autonomous air vehicles (flying cars) are media darlings, but many are not pleased by the prospect of their future presence. Given those observations, here are TWO STARS, each of equal brilliance, in the aviation firmament– Joan Robinson-Berry and Dr. Melchor J. Antunano


Women in Aerospace

Women in Aerospace  annually recognizes women who have made significant contributions to the aerospace community. The 2017 recipient of this prestigious award is Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina. “This year, we have an exceptional list of awardees who were selected amongst the best and brightest in the industry,” said Shelli Brunswick, chairperson of Women in Aerospace. “Joan is a true leader for aerospace education, and she is especially tenacious when advocating for young women in this industry.”

Women in Aerospace (WIA) is dedicated to increasing the leadership capabilities and visibility of women in the aerospace community. The professional association acknowledges and promotes innovative individuals who strive to advance the aerospace industry as a whole.

Ms. Robinson-Berry certainly fulfills that goal. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science, Engineering Technology from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona in 1982, an MBA from West Coast University in 1989 and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management from University of California, Riverside in 1991.

Right out of CSPU-P, she tried her hand as an entrepreneur forming her own consulting firm. Then, beginning as an Senior Engineer, she started in aerospace at General Dynamics and then moved to McDonnell-Douglas (MD-90 Program Office; Program Integration / Project Manager, MD-95 Program Office; Program Manager and Control, Saudi Arabian airline MD-90 and MD-11; Program Manager, MD-80/90 airplane), which transitioned her to Boeing with the merger in 1999. Her career with her current employer started in the Communications and Space Division, then to Defense Space & Security, then a tour of duty in the famous Phantom Works, then a stint as Chief Procurement Officer for Boeing. Her most recent promotion brought her to the new North Charleston, SC plant.

Her official resume is impressive enough, but her story qualifies her as a role model. She grew up in a gang-infested neighborhood. Her Dad, an LA policeman (who was killed in the line of duty), introduced her to his workshop and an interest in things mechanical was born. Her HS guidance counselor encouraged Robinson-Berry to pursue an engineering degree and when she arrived at her college, she was rare in that she was a woman, but unique in that she was an African American woman. From that point on, she benefitted from the wise counsel from her older sister; she explained that sequence to a reporter in this article:

“As Robinson-Berry has climbed the corporate ladder, she said stereotypes have continually resurfaced, such as when suppliers walk in for a meeting and begin presenting to a man in the room even though she is the decision-maker.

She said she tries to not let those situations define her.

‘My sister embedded that mindset in me. She said, ‘You’re going to be called everything on this planet when you go into that engineering program. How are you going to operate through that?’ Robinson-Berry said. ‘It’s not the situation that I’ve always focused on — you can’t control that — especially being an African-American woman. It’s how you have the courage to confront it and not give it power.’

Robinson-Berry has now been inducted into Cal Poly Pomona’s Alumni Hall of Fame for her leadership and contributions to engineering.

‘One thing I’m really proud of is that award — remember the school had no women and very few minorities then — and now a group of us are on the walls in the engineering buildings,’ she said. ‘Now young folks can see that.””

Her current mission, “responsible for leading the site strategy through policy, employee, community and government engagement and integrating all of Boeing’s business in South Carolina”, is nothing in comparison to her past. “We are incredibly proud of Joan and the recognition she is receiving for her positive contributions to our industry,” said Kevin McAllister, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Joan is among a growing number of Boeing leaders who actively demonstrate what it means to be true champions for diversity and strong role models for our industry.”


International Association of Aerospace Medecine

The International Academy of Aviation and Space Medicine, founded in 1955, elected Dr. Melchor J.  Antuñano to be its President. The IAASM is dedicated to the promotion and pursuit of new knowledge about aerospace medicine. By electing its 275 members from around the globe, it strives


contribute to international co-operation among those devoted to education and research in this particular field.

Members-to-be undergo a selection process and are elected solely for their merit on the subject, regardless of their nationality, race, creed, ideology or political belief. Candidates must be graduates from an accredited Medical School who have made an outstanding contribution to aerospace medicine and/or hold an eminent position in this special area and/or in the allied sciences thereof.


Dr.  Antuñano’s full time job is to lead a team of FAA scientists, researchers and support personnel dedicated to keeping civil aerospace travel safe in his role as director of the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City. CAMI is the medical certification, research, education, and occupational health wing of the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine. The goal of the Institute is the human element in flight – pilots, flight attendants, passengers, air traffic controllers – and the entire human support system that embraces civil aviation. The roster includes researchers, physicians, and other medical specialists, engineers, educators, pilots, technicians, and communicators. CAMI recently celebrated its 50th Birthday

Civil Aerospace Medical Institute building

CAMI logo


 Antuñano, a Mexico City native who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, earned his MD at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Medical School in 1985. He then graduated from Wright State’s Boonchoft School of Medicine’s Aerospace Residency Program MD and a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Medicine in 1988. He served as Mexico’s Flight Surgeon in its equivalent of CAMI, then spent 2 years at the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Post-Doctoral program at the US Air Force Academy’s School of Aerospace Medicine.

Dr. Melchor Antunano, director of the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, speaking during a 50th anniversary ceremony for the Federal Aviation Administration Civil Aerospace Medical Institute in Oklahoma City Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman

He entered the FAA at CAMI in 1996 in the Certification Division, then in the Education Division and then Director of the Institute.

The Doctor was the recipient of the 2010 Louis H. Bauer Founders Award for his highly distinguished, internationally recognized expertise in aerospace medicine. Director/Doctor Antuñano  is credited with 522 professional presentations and invited lectures at national and international conferences in aerospace medicine in 31 countries, and with 55 scientific publications covering a variety of aerospace medicine topics. He is also a faculty member at Wright State University School of Medicine, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and the National University of Colombia School of Medicine.,

Dr. Antuñano with plane


Two incredibly talented, driven professionals within aviation; both of their career paths merit greater prominence.






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