Working on a product that “helps keep people safe”
By Debra Werner|April 2019
Maggie Wintermute, 30, systems engineer for Honeywell Aerospace
Maggie Wintermute, while growing up in Seattle, often participated in math competitions, encouraged by her parents, a geologist and an accountant. As she explored career paths, Wintermute looked for a field that combined problem solving with continued learning. Now, Wintermute works on Honeywell’s Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, software to alert pilots of potential hazards it detects while monitoring aircraft altitude, airspeed, latitude, longitude and other factors.
How did you become a systems engineer?
When I started at the University of Washington, I explored a few different programs. What sold me on engineering was the idea of using my skills to build practical solutions to real-world problems. Majoring in aeronautics and astronautics as an undergrad, I had the opportunity to work on cool projects, like an autonomous lighter-than-air vehicle. I developed an interest in dynamics and control systems and decided to get my master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics with a focus on control systems. I was also ready to get out into the industry. During the interview for my current job, I was inspired by the passion that my future co-workers showed for aviation safety. I started working at Honeywell Aerospace and finished up my master’s at the University of Washington during my first year on the job. As a systems engineer, I’m responsible for making sure the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System functions correctly at the aircraft level. That can encompass anything from defining performance requirements for initial design to investigating issues that occur in the field. We continue to improve and expand the EGPWS by adding features that improve safety, such as an alerting mode that predicts potential runway overruns during landing. I’m proud to work on a product that helps keep people safe every day.
Imagine the world in 2050. What do you think will be happening in aviation?
Autonomous vehicles and automation in general are exciting areas that are obviously getting a ton of attention right now. Over the next few years and into the future, government and industry are going to be working together to define the role of automation in aerospace. In commercial aviation especially, I think there’s a debate to be had about what level of automation makes sense in the cockpit and in the airport environment. By 2050, I think we’ll have seen widespread adoption of automated piloting and air traffic control systems, and we’ll be continuing to improve our understanding of how humans and technology can work best together.