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Jacqueline L. “Jacque” Smith

FAA First Woman of Many Firsts in Air Traffic Control


Jacqueline L. ?Jacque? Smith, was the first woman to move through the FAA ranks to become an FAA Regional Administrator. She started her career as a Navy Air Controlman. It was after the Korean war, at airmen-prep school, she was one of six women required to march behind 92 US Marines. With no encouragement from her male instructors, she completed air traffic control school and was assigned to Naval Air Station, Alameda, near San Francisco.

In 1961 she married and left the Navy to rear a family. Seven years later she resumed her career as a civilian controller at Palmdale, California, Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), a single mother of five young children. At that time radar control was new and challenging. In Jacqueline?s words, “the object of air traffic is like a game of chess, only three dimensional, to keep all the pieces apart horizontally, vertically and laterally.”

When only 37 years of age, a single mother and the sole support of a large family, occasionally she was confronted with the attitude that she was “taking a job away from a man who needed to feed his family.” These and other frustrations pushed her toward the founding of Professional Women Controllers, Inc. (PWC).

During the course of her FAA career, Jacqueline moved through a number of major positions throughout the country: Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and Anchorage. She served as first woman manager of an ARTCC at Boston and as the first woman Air Traffic Division Manager in Los Angeles for the Western Pacific Region. She moved on as Deputy Regional Administrator for the Great Lakes Region and the FAA’s highest position in Alaska. In 1995, she retired from the FAA as Regional Administrator of over 1,500 employees for the Alaska Region.

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