Susan C. Friedenberg has been named as the 31st recipient of the AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award as part of AeroTime’s Women in Aviation Campaign.
Susan was interviewed by the AeroTime team in June 2021 as part of our ‘Women in Aviation’ campaign during Flight Attendant week. During the interview, Susan shared her career experiences in the business aviation sector which span more than three decades. She explained that a lot goes on behind the scenes to achieve the luxurious levels of service offered in business aviation. She clearly demonstrated her passion for our industry and its safety, her determination to help and support others joining aviation, and her focus on making sure everything is perfect for the client.
Susan is the CEO of Corporate Flight Attendant Training, a consultancy which offers training services to people who are looking to build a career as a flight attendant in the private jet business. She started her own aviation career flying for American Airlines (A1G) (AAL) (A1G) (AAL) and then for Capitol Air and has been involved in business aviation for the past 34 years. During that time, she has flown as a contract flight attendant, with a coast-to-coast clientele list that boasts names such as President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, General Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., the late US Senator Robert J. Dole, and Sir Paul McCartney, and as a full-time flight attendant for Coca-Cola, DuPont Aviation, and American Standard Companies. In 1999 she started her own training company and has never looked back.
She said: “I tell my students when you’re in the back of a jet with these people, whether they’re famous rock stars or political people or wealthy people, you’re a paid guest in the back of that aircraft.”
Susan added: “If it’s Part 91 operation, it is a corporation’s aircraft and they are historically traveling for business purposes and are holding meetings on board. It is a flying state-of-the-art office on the aircraft and they are traveling to attend a meeting or going to visit plant sites/their businesses globally. Part 91 is also wealthy people that own their own aircraft. Part 135 is a chartered aircraft. It is chartered by the hour at a price point that reflects the equipment size. I liken it to a flying taxicab for the rich. So, your job is to secure the cabin safety-wise, do an impeccable ‘SAFE’ detailed catering meal service, and you’ve got to make sure your caterer is reliable. FDA inspected, has insurance, and is approved/verified by their local board of health. Food safety is paramount. And then you disappear. ‘It’s not about you’. This is a business tool or a personally owned aircraft and the passengers need for you to give them ‘space’.”
Susan described the preparations for private flights as an intense process and a stark contrast from her days as a commercial flight attendant, a job she did for 15 years. When she transitioned to business and private aviation flights, she discovered a completely different environment where preparations would usually begin up to a week before the flight itself.
“Safety and attention to detail are paramount in this business. I tell my students that you have to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’. Once you’re up at 45,000 feet, there’s no supermarket. There’s no 7-Eleven to get anything, you have to plan in advance for what you need.”
She continued: “In life there are things that you do and you’re not good at, and then in life, there are things that you do and right out of the ballpark you’re good at it and I was great at this from the beginning. I was in shock that I could do a four-course hot meal service ordering catering on a Falcon 50 with a little tiny galley with a high low oven and pull it off with a small crew of people. And from that I just knew that I’d found my place in aviation.”
You can watch the full interview with Susan here:
Presenting the award to Susan, AeroTime Chief Executive and Editor in Chief, Richard Stephenson, said, ”Once you meet Susan and you feel her energy and passion first hand, you cannot fail to be inspired. She is not only an advocate for aviation safety, but a role model for the next generations she trains to be the very best professionals in the future. Susan’s experience, which comes to life through the many stories she openly and cheerfully shares, could be turned into a manual for a successful life in aviation. The AeroTime team had no hesitation in agreeing to grant this award to such a dedicated advocate, teacher, mentor, storyteller and aviation professional. Congratulations Susan!”
Susan C. Friedenberg, AeroTime Aviation Achievement Award Citation:
In recognition of her dedication and commitment to the aviation sector; for promoting and advocating for aviation safety; for her encouragement and support of people who are looking to build a career as a flight attendant in the business aviation sector. The AeroTime Global Executive Committee recognises the positive influence of these efforts and the significance of their impact on the aviation industry and its people, both today and into the future.