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Kern Award Winner Wendy Langen: Tackling New Challenges Leads to Professional Growth

In college, Wendy Langen needed a job. Little did she know that becoming an assistant to the owner of a helicopter flight school at Seattle’s Boeing Field (BFI) would, in time, lead to her receiving NBAA ‘s 2023 Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award.

Now the executive director of Mente LLC, a Part-91 flight department whose fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters serve the global needs of the company’s network of principals, her initial aviation job taught her that “professional growth comes with willingness to take on new challenges.

“Responsibility is earned, not given, so raise your hand for responsibilities small and large,” she said.

At the flight school, responsibilities came steadily. “I became the school’s visa administrator for its international students. This earned the boss’ respect and more responsibility.” When the flight school brought on a Challenger, she helped manage the application for its Part 135 certification.

“Before long I was scheduling, helping with manuals and checklists, advertising, brokering charters and establishing and managing the company’s first drug-testing program in the early 1990s,” Langen said.

Although these responsibilities are diverse, their common denominator was customer service, getting tasks done efficiently – and ultimately led to her next position with the principals of Mente LLC, which was formed in 1997.

Aviation succeeds because of teamwork, and those most successful have a dedicated passion for its full spectrum of responsibilities, not just their individual specialty of pilot, mechanic, flight attendant, administrator or scheduler/dispatcher, said Langen.

“Managing people takes a lot of energy, and you need empathy because their personal challenges can affect their work.”

“A team of aviators knows that a safe, efficient, economical operation comes when everyone works cooperatively and respects and encourages contribution from across the team,” she added. “Regardless of its size, if you’re given the opportunity to lead a team, providing for its members and advocating for them is your responsibility. Managing people takes a lot of energy, and you need empathy because their personal challenges can affect their work. I’m so glad that mental health awareness is a growing part of the conversation because if not addressed, it will hobble the whole operation.”

Langen said going forward, she’s focused on succession planning to help the company continue to succeed as people begin to retire.

“It reinforces a culture where people, before they take the next step in their lives, are willing to share what they’ve learned from their successes as well as their failures, because that’s where growth happens,” she said.

Dr. Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award

Nine individuals were selected to receive the NBAA Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award in 2023. Established in 2015 to honor its namesake, the peer-nominated award recognizes individual pilots, maintenance technicians, flight attendants, dispatchers and other aviation professionals who excel in leadership in the areas of professional ethics, vocational excellence, continuous improvement, professional engagement, professional image and selflessness.

Learn more about the NBAA Tony Kern Professionalism in Aviation Award.

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