Heather Rider's career continues to ascend at Cessna

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Heather Rider's career continues to ascend at Cessna

Aviation is about lots more than flying airplanes — though that's a biggie for any aviation aficionado like University of North Dakota alumna Heather Rider. A native of Boise, Idaho, Rider got a degree in commercial aviation in 2001 from the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. She expected to follow her dream of being an airline pilot.

Rider remembers her UND education and a couple of key lessons she learned about career ambitions: "The most important thing I learned was to keep an open mind and look at what else is out there."

Keeping an open mind landed Rider, who spent two years after graduating as a UND certified flight instructor, with one of the best known airplane companies, Cessna, selling the firm's jet airplanes. At air shows such as Oshkosh, Rider is part of an adventure she wouldn't trade.

"I love this work! I think it's the best of two worlds, two careers, flying and sales," said Rider, who as a student was a member and then president of the UND chapter of Women in Aviation. It was an appropriate connection to her aviation launch: she was a nanny in Atlanta for a couple of years for an airline pilot — a woman — who encouraged her to try out a flight.

"For the first time, I flew a small plane there and was instantly hooked!" Rider said. "Then and there I decided to become an airline pilot."

But Rider — now based in Minneapolis — woke up to other possibilities in aviation after getting a job in sales for an aircraft parts company, then a couple of years traveling the country selling Mooney aircraft. Now, beaming as she connects with potential customers at Oshkosh for her company's $3 million-plus jets, she recollects her UND experience:

"It was definitely one of the best experiences I've had — really amazing instruction and a lot of fun."

"I get to be around aviation, my passion, and I also really like sales because it fits my personality," Rider said. "Plus I get to talk about aviation all day. My goal is to sell a whole lot of jets. I could do this for the next 30 years and retire happy."

About AirVenture Briefly, AirVenture, hosted at the headquarters of the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is the country's largest general aviation show. It's a gathering of thousands of aircraft and hundreds of thousands of visitors for an annual aviation extravaganza.

"It's definitely the place to be if you're in aviation," says Ken Polovitz, associate dean for student services at UND Aerospace and regular for many years at the Oshkosh air show.

"We come here for three reasons: to recruit students, connect with our alums, and meet with our industry contacts," said Polovitz, adding that UND Aerospace has been a presence at this annual event for "several decades."

Juan Miguel Pedraza

University and Public Affairs writer

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