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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Emily Biss

Friday's Fabulous Flyer

Home in a 737 engine

Emily grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and on the coast of Maine. But after spending most of her adult life in the Pacific Time Zone, she moved to Washington 5 years ago for her current job with Boeing. 

What does she do with Boeing? 

Emily is a Test Pilot. Specifically a "Production Captain" on the 737 but she’s in the process of making all of us jealous because she’s getting her 787 "Production Captain" qualification.

While she earned her pilot's license when she was 19 years ago, Emily has been flying as her sole source of income for approximately 11 years.

 The "Blue Robin," the trusty Cessna 170 she flies out of KPAE.

Karlene: I find it fascinating when pilots first find their passion. What is your first memory of wanting to fly?

Emily: I have been fascinated by all things air and space from a very early age. Apparently, I begged my parents for a ride in a Tiger Moth at an airshow when I was 6. I have no memory of this but I guess the bug bit early. My uncle was a pilot in the USAF and a POW in the Vietnam War.

With American Airlines pilot, Deborah Hecker, 
On the delivery flight of "3GS" in November 2010.

Karlene: We all face challenges at time. What was your greatest struggle, and what inspired you to keep going?

Emily: Greatest "great struggle" relating to flying comes to mind. However, after I graduated from college I biked across country with a friend of mine from high school. We started in OR and finished in DE. In MT we started to *really* get on each other's nerves, to the point of jeopardizing our trip. (Not to mention the physically grueling days.) However, we both decided the goal was bigger than our issues and talked them through. We were successful and completed our 4200 mile trip in 81 days. 

Captain Kathi Durst and First Officer Jenny Betty 
The delivery flight of American Airlines 737 "3GS" November 2010
"I got to sit in the back and drink champagne. What a treat!"

What does this Boeing Test Pilot do on “her” time off ?

She’s participating in the Washington Trails Association's 9th annual Hike-a-Thon.

Karlene: How long have you been hiking?

Emily:  Since childhood, but became more serious about it in college and as an adult. I love being outdoors and hiking is such a peaceful and exhilarating way to interact with nature.

Karlene: Will you tell us what does it feel like to be on top of a mountain or walking through the woods?

Emily: It is an amazing feeling to summit a mountain. Two years ago I hiked to the rim of Mount St. Helens and last weekend I climbed Coldwater Peak. I haven't summited that many mountains but plan to keep it up. How exhilarating.

Karlene: Exhilarating is a great word. Is there any correlation between hiking, and flying, learning to, stamina, struggles, and obstacles?

Emily: One of the things that is so neat about hiking is to be on the ground in areas that I fly over every day at 41,000'. As you can imagine, it is a completely different perspective but there is nothing quite like experiencing it. Even Mt. Rainier seems like a pimple when you are at FL410. Certainly not when looking at it from the trail at 7,000. Summiting Rainier is certainly one of my long-term goals. And when you're cruising around at FL410 summiting that 7000' peak sure doesn't seem like much. 

Emily "Ilia" Biss and Steve "Captain Kirk" Payne 
2012 inaugural Hike-a-Thon hike; Harry's Ridge, 
Coldwater Peak, and South Coldwater Trail

Karlene: Tell me a little more about the hike-a-thon.

Emily: I have been hiking up a storm this year as a participant in the Mountaineer's Conditioning Hiking Series. As a result, I have become acquainted with many of the exquisite trails in Western Washington and the importance of maintaining them. I am participating in Washington Trails Association's 9th annual Hike-a-Thon to raise funds for their efforts to protect and maintain our cherished hiking trails and wild lands.

 The rim of Mount St. Helens (in a cloud!) September 2010 

I have pledged to hike as much as possible during the month of August as my alter ego "Ilia" along with my team "Captain Kirk and the Redshirts." My personal goal is to hike at least 50 miles and raise $750.00. The funds raised get put to work immediately to support WTA's efforts to protect and maintain our cherished hiking trails and wild lands, and to operate one of the largest trail maintenance programs in the country, with 2,500 volunteers putting in 105,000 trail maintenance hours annually. 

Emily is an inspiration to all of us reaching for our dreams. Whether she’s climbing into a plane or on top of a mountain, she is living life to the fullest. I hope that you can share this post with your friends, and support or encourage others to support this adventure. She’s already exceeded her goal, but every little bit helps the trails. Please click HERE to learn more how you can help Emily sustain our natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

It's been a great journey and more to come. Emily, I hope to hike with you one day. 

For me... I'm in Amsterdam. A great crossing, and it's time for a quick nap. 
Enjoy the Journey!

XO Karlene

Flight For Safety in progress: Plot points in the making across the ocean.


  1. Amazing story! As a fellow hiker, I understand the exhilaration of climbing mountains and go for peaceful walks in the forest. And what a job you have Emily! My dream job for sure :) Test flying the 787 must be a dream come true for you as well :)

    1. Thank you Cecilie. I didn't know you liked to hike. Okay, we have another plan for your next visit in Seattle. Thank you so much for your comment!

  2. Friday fabulous flight is a nice article.

    1. Thank you Muhammad. It was easy to write about a fabulous woman. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I like her story!!Thank you so much for sharing,and congratulations on the 787 Production Captain qualification.
    Biking across USA is really amazing.I had almost same experience during university student in Japan with my friends.Aha Not 4200 miles trip,but can imagine the situation since we face this situation:)
    Amsterdam,Karlene san!? This is awesome!

    Getting close to my dream,and cannot wait to work as a pilot.Have a safe flight.
    Warm regards,

    1. Jun, you are getting so close on your dream. I will look forward to hearing about your experience (biking?) as a University student in Japan. Yes, Amsterdam. So... one day maybe you will fly a Boeing plane too.

  4. What a truly amazing person she is. I wish I could have joined her on the Mt. St. Helens hike. Truly amazing. I was in grade school and remembering when it erupted.

    It's amazing also what she has done as a test pilot - truly inspirational.

    Perhaps one day we all can take the real test and hike the mountain to which one of my favorite KLM 777s is named after - Mt. Kilimanjaro. Perhaps, when they invent effective oxygen masks to wear up at certain altitudes. :-)

    1. Thank you so much Jeremy! I remember when it erupted too. High School for me. So.. maybe we could all Kilimanjaro?? Okay, I did hike Mt. Fuji once. So much fun.

  5. Emily is one of the best people I know. Not only is she an excellent pilot and a prolific hiker, but she's a fierce Geocacher and has a really huge heart. She is a true giver to so many. I've learned a lot from her and our friendship and I'm delighted to see her featured in your blog! Let's help Emily and her Team raise a freak-ton of money for Washington's trails!!!

    1. Erin, Thank you so much for a wonderful comment! I'm with you! We'll get her a freak-ton! And... I'm going to be hiking our trails soon! She is lucky to have a great friend like you too!

  6. Wow! What a great story and a great job! I hope I meet her next time I'm up in Seattle!


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