Jasper native honored for aviation career



Mary (Fierst) Miller-Wright remembers the first time she flew.

In the early 1970s, she hopped on a plane with fellow members of the Jasper High School band en route to marching in a parade at Disneyland. A successful, evolving career in the aviation field was not yet on her mind.

Now, after nearly four decades of delivering world-class customer and support services to users of business and private aviation, the Jasper native and Alexandria, Virginia, resident was recently honored in a big way.

Last week, Miller-Wright, 63, received a Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award. According to a press release, that honor is given by the National Aeronautic Association to “...outstanding Americans who, by their efforts over an extended period of years, have made contributions of significant value to aeronautics and have reflected credit upon America and themselves.”

Though Miller-Wright is not a pilot, she’s made a living by helping those who do fly. Cassandra Bosco of Women in Aviation International laid out Miller-Wright’s extensive accomplishments in a nomination letter.

“While officially serving the last nine years as Corporate Vice President for Industry and Government Affairs, leaders and users throughout the industry think of Mary Miller simply as the face of Signature Flight Support – the world’s largest network of Fixed Base Operations (FBOs) – and a fixture at her home base of Washington Reagan National Airport (DCA),” Bosco wrote. “Ms. Miller has played a pivotal role in serving the needs of one of the nation’s busiest and most strategically important airports during turbulent times.”

Her aviation background began at Kimball International. After graduating from Indiana University, she worked in the local operation’s public relations department. Kimball CEO Arnold Habig decided the company needed an airplane to highlight its showroom to customers from big cities, and among other duties, Miller-Wright was in charge of the plane’s scheduling.

She moved to Washington, D.C., about six years later and accepted a position at the Reagan National Airport, working for Signature Flight Support. Miller-Wright started off in customer relations. Ten years ago, she migrated to working in industry and government affairs.

“Basically, I’m the eyes and ears in Washington, D.C., for the company I work for,” Miller-Wright explained. “Aviation is pretty heavily regulated. So, I stay connected to the government, meaning members of congress, the [Federal Aviation Administration], the [Transportation Security Administration], and then [Customs and Border Protection] ... amongst other organizations you liaise with, as need be.”

Miller-Wright said she was surprised, humbled and honored to receive the Distinguished Statesman of Aviation Award. More than 300 people have received the accolade, but just 17 of the winners have been women — a distinction that makes it even more meaningful to Miller-Wright.

“When I think back, I think setting an example to girls in aviation that are coming up and growing up, and just sharing with them that they can do it as well,” Miller-Wright responded when asked how her career has been rewarding. Encouraging them to stick with it is important to her.

She stressed that for her, Jasper is not in the past. Her experiences and upbringing in Southwestern Indiana are very much part of the fabric of her everyday life, and they still serve as a guiding star. She now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, Paul Wright.

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