Erin "Aero" Orga
Being a Woman in a Male Dominated Career Field; Mentorship; Methods for Success; The Importance of Mutual Support; Leadership; How to Recover from Failure; Overcoming Obstacles; Following Your Passion; Work and Life Balance; Military to Corporate Transition; Performing Under Pressure; Maximizing Performance
Press and Media
I grew up in a family that taught me to believe that I could do anything if I worked hard enough. I loved a challenge, especially one that came about because I was told that I couldn’t do something. “Women can’t fly fighters,” is what they told me in high school. Five years later I proved them wrong.
Being a fighter pilot was one of the greatest challenges in my life. Learning to drop bombs, shoot missiles, pull G’s, fly combat missions, and provide close air support to troops on the ground tested not just my flying skills – it tested my teamwork, my attitude, and my resolve. As the only female in my pilot training class, the only female in my instructor training class, and initially the only female instructor in my training squadron, I quickly learned how to adapt and succeed.
After years of combat aviation experience, I realized that my true calling was as an instructor. I was passionate about teaching and mentoring the Air Force’s next generation of fighter pilots. I wanted to help them realize that even at their high performing level, their potential is so much greater than they ever thought possible. It was thrilling to be able to share my wisdom from years of study and experience and see it propel their performance to new heights. Many times, people associate the words smart and talented with fighter pilots. The truth is, being a fighter pilot isn’t about being super-smart or exceptionally talented. It’s about attitude. It is about commitment, self-discipline, good habits, and hard work. It is about overcoming obstacles through grit and determination. It is about learning how to maximize your performance, the performance of your jet, and the performance of those on your team. After leaving the military I also learned that the skills that make an excellent fighter pilot can be applied successfully in any career field.
Working in the corporate world for the last ten years has presented me with even more challenges, and I have achieved success by applying everything that I learned as a fighter pilot. Instead of building young students into premiere fighter pilots, I now work to build highly effective teams that can deliver multi-million-dollar engineering projects. I have experienced firsthand how a poor corporate leadership culture can bring a company into bankruptcy. I have been able to use the leadership skills I learned in the military to assist with restructuring events, enabling a successful emersion from that failure. I have a passion for teaching and helping others. Whether your challenge is achieving a promotion, breaking through the glass ceiling, building a better team, improving your leadership style, or maximizing performance, I can show you how to achieve that victory.
As a pilot in the initial wave of women to fly modern combat aircraft, Erin “Aero” Orga actually grew up dreaming of being either a professional roller coaster rider, Olympic figure skater or an astronaut for NASA. Her passion for air and space finally won out and she attended the University of Notre Dame on an Air Force ROTC scholarship, where she graduated as one of only two females in her class with a degree in aerospace engineering. Aero was also a distinguished graduate out of AFROTC and was awarded a highly coveted Air Force pilot training slot. During her initial training at Columbus Air Force Base, Aero was ranked high enough in her class to earn the right to track select into fighters and she was eventually chosen to fly her favorite fighter aircraft, the F-15E Strike Eagle.
During her 10 years in the Air Force, Aero flew over 50 combat missions in Iraq, where she provided air cover for the US Army and Marine units on the ground in places like Bagdad, Fallujah, and Mosul. She also provided air cover for the first democratic Iraqi elections and the second inauguration ceremony of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. When she wasn’t flying F-15Es, Aero spent time as a T-38 instructor, training many young Air Force pilots who would go on to fly fighter jets.
Aero eventually left the military to focus on her family and her newborn son. She moved back to her hometown of Pittsburgh and began working as a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Program Manager for Westinghouse Electric, a nuclear engineering company. During her time at Westinghouse, Aero has run global teams of engineers delivering successful projects in the US, the UK, Canada, India, and China, with many of those projects valued at over $100 million.
In addition to her professional careers, Aero has devoted over 15 years to training in Tae Kwon Do, in which she holds a third-degree black belt. She continues to be passionate about aviation, flying for fun through a local aviation club with her son, Josh, and their golden retriever, Radar, as her co-pilots.