While taking her first introductory flight, Robin Guillian became enamored with aviation. She was intrigued by the complex systems that were involved, the hand-eye coordination that was required, and the fact that she could work outdoors. She first became a certified flight instructor before moving on to flying commercial cargo and commercial passenger planes.
Guillian logged more than 5,000 hours as an airline transport pilot. Based for four years in Brussels, Belgium, she flew Boeing 727s as a Flight Engineer and First Officer for Express One International. This was perhaps her most challenging and rewarding position as she worked 12-hour shifts in the dark in some of the world’s worst weather and congested airspace. There she learned the importance of working as a tight team. “You have to manage morale to get through the night,” she says. “You need to be a cohesive team and get through emergencies together – all while having fun!”
She later flew Boeing 737s as a First Officer for Aloha Airlines, based in Hawaii. She flew around the islands and could be home in time to meet her son after school. More recently she spends as much time as possible with a new passion: flying floatplanes on Lake Champlain.
Guillian earned a master’s degree in mediation in 2013, realizing that this knowledge would help in any field and everyday life. “It goes with everything you do – whether at home, in a classroom or a cockpit,” she says. Outside of her teaching role she is also a conflict management trainer, mediator and justice of the peace. She’s been researching the challenges of conflict resolution training in the airline industry. In 2013, she made a presentation on the topic at the American University Intercultural Management Institute’s annual conference.
As she continually updates aviation coursework, Guillian takes pride in creating an extremely relevant program for her students. The aviation world changes so quickly (policy, expectations of employers, technology, rules, ratings and more) that courses cannot be based on textbooks, she says. “I love Vermont Tech’s can-do attitude and its emphasis on creating graduates who are ready to get jobs.”
Guillian clearly gets a lift from teaching. “The cool thing about teaching flying is that you get to be with people who are very passionate about what they are learning,” she says. “You get to spend time with people during the best part of their day.”