In celebration of Women's History Month, the Department of Aerospace Engineering is highlighting some of our talented and diverse alumni and faculty through a series of stories sharing their journeys and their advice for aspiring aerospace engineers.

Capt. Jennifer Henderson (B.S. '97) is a Maryland native and currently a Boeing Engineering Test Pilot and member of the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Reserve. She pursued her academic goals as a cooperative education student through the Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWCAD), Patuxent River, thus gaining real world engineering experience while completing her degree.

At NAWCAD, Henderson worked primarily as a flight test engineer, contributing to programs such as the F-14 Digital Flight Control System, H-60 shipboard testing for the U.S. Navy, H-46 Ground Proximity Warning System testing for the U.S. Marine Corps, and various shipboard related programs for the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army. She graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1999 after having had the opportunity to fly over 30 different fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

Henderson then became the lead government flight test engineer for the four bladed UH-1Y Huey helicopter for the U.S. Marine Corps, where she helped coordinate a contractor/government test team to bring the prototype aircraft to first flight. Soon after, she decided to leave civilian life to pursue her dream of becoming a USAF pilot. Henderson received her wings in 2003 from Vance Air Force Base, OK. Most of her Air Force flight hours were in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

In November 2005, Henderson was hired by Boeing, where she has served in multiple roles: flight test director; production test pilot; lead production pilot for the 737; engineering pilot for the 787-10 program; and lead pilot for the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 Engine Program. In addition, she was the lead test pilot for the 737 MAX7 flight test program and assistant chief pilot for production in Seattle. In April 2019, she became chief pilot for the 737. More recently, she was named chief pilot for production flight operations for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Henderson is the first woman to be elected to the board of directors for the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, serving between 2015-2019. In addition to her UMD degree, she holds a master’s degree in systems engineering from Johns Hopkins University (2009).

Where/how did you get started on your aerospace engineering journey?

I got my journey started at the Naval Air Warfare Center as a Co-operative Education student.

Who/what inspires you?

Test pilots inspired me… that's what made me decide to become one!

What has helped you to succeed in your overall personal and professional journey?

I've had the great fortune of working with some amazing mentors. They've helped give me perspective and encouraged me along the way.

What advice would you offer to current students?

It's all worth it! Keep charging along toward your goals and I promise it's all worth it in the end. An engineering degree opens up so many doors.

What have been some of your greatest personal or professional successes?

Graduating from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School; USAF Pilot training; becoming a test pilot for Boeing; serving as chief pilot for the 737; and my current role as chief pilot for production flight operations.

Related Articles:
Celebrating Women in Aerospace Engineering: Kim Westbrook
Celebrating Women in Aerospace Engineering: Anya Jones
Celebrating Women in Aerospace Engineering: Elizabeth Ward
Celebrating Women in Aerospace Engineering: Sylvie DeLaHunt
The Clark School Celebrates Women's History Month

March 14, 2022

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It's all worth it! Keep charging along toward your goals and I promise it's all worth it in the end. An engineering degree opens up so many doors.

Jennifer Henderson ('97)


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