G550 pilot breaks barriers at Gulfstream

 - May 4, 2010, 10:55 AM

Gulfstream has appointed 32-year-old G550 pilot Rebecca Johnson as a regional vice president in its international sales division, covering 18 countries in south-central Europe. The appointment is significant, given that Johnson is the first woman to serve as a vice president of sales in Gulfstream’s 50-year history.
Although Johnson said the appointment is “really exciting,” she believes her skills and experience are more important than her gender. “My gender isn’t really an asset,” she said. “It’s neither a plus nor a minus.”

Johnson has logged more than 6,300 flight hours and is type-rated in eight aircraft, including the Citation 500; the Hawker Beechcraft Premier, Beechjet, Hawkers 800, 1000 and 4000; and the G550. Most recently, she served as a G550 captain for Farner Airwings, based out of Moscow, and also spent a number of years as a member of the Hawker Beechcraft U.S. demonstration team.

Tarek Ragheb, vice president of international sales for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA) division, said Johnson “brings a huge amount of credibility to
her new job. As a professional with that kind of experience, the credibility factor, not only in aviation, but in private aviation, is off the meter.”

Although she plans to continue flying and remain current in the G550, Johnson wants to focus most of her efforts on her new job. “I want my flying skills and experience to be an asset, but I don’t plan to fly as much,” she said. “I wanted a new challenge, and now I just want to focus on the job.”

She also plans to spend a lot of time in the field, talking with new and existing customers to find ways to improve service. And to be successful, she plans to use the knowledge she gained while flying on five continents and her experience interacting with the senior executives who make purchasing decisions.

“When you’re the pilot and the CEO is in the back of your airplane, you need to put on your best performance,” she said. “But you also should be listening to what the decision maker is saying. You want to make it a good experience. And I believe most CEOs just want someone who will be honest with them, someone who will help them find the airplane that will best meet their needs. I’m well-qualified to help them select the right airplane.”

Johnson also plans to use her natural sensitivity to other cultures to help her on the job. On a trip into Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for example, she wrapped her head and pulled an abaya over her uniform before landing. “It took just a few seconds to pull the abaya over my uniform, and when I landed I was in full Middle Eastern dress,” she said. “I feel strongly that you should respect other cultures.”