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Breaking glass ceilings

As a young girl, Aircraft Cabin Compliance Manager Renate Freundlich recalls hearing that girls couldn’t be pilots, but she still dreamed of flying the skies one day. After college, she obtained her private pilot license before pausing her career aspirations to raise a family. Years later, her passion to be a commercial pilot was reignited with goals to achieve her instrument and commercial rating in 2023.

“I’m proud to be a woman who works in aviation,” shares Renate. “I have a young granddaughter now and she needs to know women can do this and that she can be anything she wants to be.”

Renate grew up around airplanes in Brooklyn, New York as her stepfather was an aircraft maintenance technician for Trans World Airlines at John F. Kennedy International Airport. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Brooklyn College but her passion to work around airplanes never left her. “At the time, girls were taught that we could be flight attendants not pilots,” she shares. She didn’t let that deter her and found a flight school where she obtained her private pilot license. Soon after she started working on her instrument ratings, she put her dream on hold to start a family.

After moving to Philadelphia and with a passion to continue working around aircraft, she worked in various airline maintenance roles from Stores to helicopter interiors. Five years later, she saw an opening for an Aircraft Cabin Condition Manager at Piedmont. Piedmont’s parent company, American Airlines had introduced a program called Cabin Condition Compliance focusing on the public’s general opinion of our aircraft. “I had five years of experience monitoring helicopter interiors and thought it sounded like a great fit,” exclaims Renate. “The person chosen for the position would launch the program at Piedmont and I felt like my previous jobs led me to this one.”

Renate joined Piedmont in December 2017 and is responsible for the functionality, appearance and cleanliness of our aircraft interiors. Since joining, she led Piedmont to be the first regional carrier among the American Eagle Group to fully institute the Cabin Compliance Program and her leadership has earned Piedmont the top spot in cabin interiors in all but two months of the last three years among the American Eagle Group. “I may lead the program, but it takes a team of professionals who work on our aircraft to be number one,” shares Renate. “I couldn’t be prouder of the success of this program.” In 2022, Renate’s program leadership earned her the company’s highest award, the President’s Award.

As a female who works in Maintenance, Renate says she feels she has proven herself to her male colleagues who may have doubted what she is capable of accomplishing. “I always want to come across as a professional who is confident and competent and expect my colleagues, male and female, to approach me with an open mind,” she says. “We are all on the same team with the same goal: to be the #1 regional partner for American Airlines.”

Renate is a member of the Professional Women in Aviation Employee Resource Group and enjoys networking with other like-minded professionals and cheering on other female aviators. “To those looking to advance in their aviation or pilot careers, keep your eye on the prize,” says Renate. “There will be people who will discourage you along the way but there are also those who will cheer you on and mentor you along your journey. Becoming a commercial pilot will complete the circle for me and I am committed to finding my way to the flight deck.”

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