Keeping planes in the air

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  • An interview with FAA Engineering Technician, Carolyn Seritt

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) turns to Carolyn Seritt for solutions when things get turbulent.

    Atlanta, Georgia, USA — When you fly into an airport, do you ever recognize something and think, “Holy Cow, I did that!” Carolyn Seritt does. She is an Engineering Technician on the Computer Aided Engineering Graphics (CAEG) team of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Atlanta. She helps FAA engineers with software problems. She is the “go-to” person when problems arise. We had a chance to talk with her at length at the Bentley Empowered Conference in Los Angeles.

    MicroStation Today: Hello Carolyn, what is happening in your life these days?
    Carolyn: The most exciting thing about my job right now is I get to do some extra work on the Hurricane Team.

    MST: The Hurricane Team? What’s that?
    Carolyn: After a hurricane, the FAA deploys a special team to get air traffic control equipment back up and running. We have damage assessment teams that go out and then restoration teams to handle any reported damage. The main objective is to get equipment back on-line. We might have to repair radar equipment or replace a window in a tower. We even have a portable tower that we can drive out if the tower is damaged.

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) turns to Carolyn Seritt for solutions when things get turbulent.

    MST: Sounds exciting. How did you get to where you are today?
    Carolyn: I have been a drafting technician since 1974. I was the first female to enroll in drafting and design at the Walker County Technical School. At that time, it was truly a man’s profession. I had many obstacles to overcome, but I loved drafting so I persevered.

    My father was on a survey crew in the early 1900s. He built roads and bridges all over Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. He inspired me to select drafting and design as my career. I am a mother of two engineers. Matt, my elder son, is a computer engineer. Bart, the youngest, is a civil engineer. I guess you could say engineering is in our blood.

    I started out drafting on the board. I have worked for a land surveyor and a civil engineer. I have also done land planning and run-off control. [Editor’s note: “run-off control” is the control of water that does not soak into the soil and has to be controlled.] In years past, I worked out in the field as a survey technician. My husband and I owned a small surveying and engineering company. It was my job to clear the path through the woods and brush while setting the points to survey by. It was nice to be outside, but when it was 90 degrees and there were yellow jackets stinging or it was below 30 degrees, well, I was not too happy with those circumstances. That was the time when I would try to find a way to stay in the office and work. Being married to the boss did have its advantages.

    I learned to draft on the computer in 1993 when the FAA hired me. My first CAD experience was with a product called Autotrol, a CAD application that was very similar to MicroStation. Later I used AutoCAD. Currently I use MicroStation.

    MST: How did you first hear about Axiom products and how have they helped you?
    Carolyn: Our drafting coordinator turned us on to Axiom’s products. Our drafters run FileFixer on every file before closing and saving, fixing all kinds of problems behind the scenes. We have used Axiom’s FileFixer for more than eight years. In that time, we have used FileFixer to clean up more than 35,000 drawings. When we send our drawings out to vendors, they praise the way our files are so manageable and the electronic data is so clean. Our specialist for the outside vendor drawings uses Axiom tools constantly. We also ask our vendors to use FileFixer when they are contracted to do our drawings.

    MST: With your family history in engineering, what do you predict will be the “next big thing” in CAD?
    Carolyn: I envision that a CAD program might become voice commanded in the future. In the past, when I was on the board using the old Leroy set, I dreamed that perhaps one day I would type the text for a drawing, or someone would invent a device that would do the inking for contour lines. Now look at us. [Editor’s note: During the days when drafting was done by hand, neat lettering could be done using a Leroy lettering set made by drafting supply company Keuffel & Esser.]

    MST: What would you like to be doing in ten years?
    Carolyn: I see myself being retired from government service in ten years. I plan to move to my 45 acres in north Georgia. I hope to be using my skills and knowledge to develop that tract of land into a home. I want to become as self-sufficient as possible. I have lived a wonderful life in engineering and I use that knowledge often.

    MST: What’s a book you wish you’d written?
    Carolyn: The book I wish I would have written is “How I Won the Lottery”. In all seriousness, I am writing a book about the comedy of life as the only girl in a family of five boys, growing up on farms in Alabama and Georgia.

    Once when we were cutting wood and I was picking up sticks, I was not paying attention as well as I should when Dad cut down a small tree (about 8 inches in diameter) that landed right smack on my head. It was a wet area and when I moved my feet to stagger around, my footprints were two inches into the ground. I felt like one of those cartoon characters that had been driven into the ground with the stars circling. Luckily there were no injuries — I don’t think. (Some people might argue that point.) All in all I would say that I have had a wonderful career. I am blessed.

    MST: We hope you do win the lottery so you can add that to the book you are writing.

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