Engineering Safe Aviation: A Quality Assurance Engineer’s Story

Closeup of airplane engine in a hangar

According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, more than 8.5 million commercial flights took off across the United States in 2015. The systems behind flight safety, both in the air (enroute) and on the ground (terminal), are incredibly sophisticated and are designed and maintained by some of the brightest minds across Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The backbone of flight safety

As a quality assurance engineer, Carol Payne supports the EnRoute Automation Modernization (ERAM) program software development and test activities. ERAM is the backbone for flight safety across the United States, tracking planes between terminals. Carol works with a team to ensure that this mission-critical system is functioning in accordance with specified design requirements.

Carol’s manager, Mike Delaney had this to say about her work: “She makes sure the test runs follow the correct process, which is critical for this important aspect of the (ERAM) program. Her attention to detail is impeccable, she has identified areas that were non-compliant and worked proactively to ensure corrective and preventive actions were put in place to resolve them in a professional manner.”

Quality assurance engineer Carol Payne, 2017 Black Engineer of the Year BEYA award in STEM


Destined for eEngineering

Growing up, Carol was often in the presence of engineers, playing a key role in her decision to pursue engineering. Many of these engineers worked on projects associated with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), specifically on systems essential to safe flight. This early exposure gave her an appreciation for the complexity of engineering, especially the mathematical and analysis side of the field. “Mathematics applies to so many aspects of the world, and it’s something that’s always been intriguing. That said, I didn’t actively pursue a career in engineering — it was a profession that chose me. It’s a fascinating field,” said Carol. Aerotek Account Manager John Collins said that Carol’s “broad knowledge of the engineering requirements, standards, technical details of software and hardware efforts and her unyielding drive to never let the program falter are just some of the reasons that she is among the best in her field … she impacts the FAA programs daily in a major way.”

For future engineers

Advice that Carol offers young people pursuing a STEM career is to exude confidence: “Believe in yourself and know that a career in STEM contributes to discovering cutting edge technology. It’s rewarding to know you were instrumental in making a difference in an ever-changing world.” Regarding challenges: “They are inevitable for everyone in any career. Overcoming career challenges allowed me to grow stronger and learn from past experiences, which increased my confidence throughout my career. Having determination without wavering is the real challenge! A STEM career is one where you’re making a difference. You’re allowed to share with others as you introduce new thoughts and ideas. You never know where those thoughts may take you.”

Aerotek is proud to congratulate Carol for her recognition at the 2017 Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics STEM Conference in Washington, D.C. Carol was awarded the prestigious Modern Day Technology Leaders Award.