Aerospace engineer and TV personality Emily Calandrelli stopped by Yeager Airport in Charleston Friday for a special project featuring West Virginia women in aviation. The Morgantown native interviewed the airport’s assistant airport director and chief operating officer Dominique Ranieri about her career in the field and how young women can get into the industry.
The project, titled “The Future is You,” is planned to air in the fall on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. It will also appear on social media, including Calandrelli’s highly followed personal pages.
“It’s really just to highlight women in aviation throughout the state, but also highlight the training and education available here in the state and the jobs and opportunities available in the state after you get that training,” Calandrelli said of the project, which is a collaboration between WVPB and the West Virginia Department of Education.
In the interview, Ranieri told Calandrelli about how her career as a lawyer unexpectedly rerouted to a career at the airport after she assisted the airport team with a legal matter.
“Aviation always finds a way of calling you home,” Ranieri said. “I come from an aviation family. My mom was a Delta flight attendant, and my dad has a pilot's license, and my sisters all love aviation.”
In her role, Ranieri oversees everything from airline operations to rental car tenants, and she makes sure the runways stay open and operational at all times.
Ranieri said students and young women who want to work at an airport should reach out to one. “There’s always an opportunity for you to speak to someone that is in the role you might think you want,” she said.
She pointed to internships as a good way to get into the field, as well as aviation-related degrees, like the ones offered at Marshall University’s new Bill Noe Flight School. But she said any kind of work experience can lead to a career at an airport.
“That’s the exciting thing about aviation,” she said. “If there’s something you have an interest in, there’s some way to do that thing at the airport.”
Like Ranieri, Calandrelli's own career took several unexpected turns. With engineering degrees from West Virginia University and MIT under her belt, the self-dubbed "Space Gal" is now a children's book author and science TV show host. She also has several hundred-thousand followers across her social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
Calandrelli will continue her interviews next week, with planned stops in Morgantown and Scott Depot. She said she plans to speak with college students at her alma mater, West Virginia University, where she received her undergraduate degree in mechanical aerospace engineering in 2010. She also visited the Robert C. Byrd National Aerospace Education Center in Bridgeport.