The consummate Wichita insider
Published: 17 Jul 2017
Born and raised in “the air capital of the world”, Christi Tannahill has spent her career in the aerospace industry. Today she works for Textron Aviation as senior vice-president interior design and engineering.
Have you always been interested in aviation?
Growing up in Wichita, Kansas – the air capital of the world – I guess you could say I have always had aviation in my blood. My first job out of college was in aviation and every job thereafter. It is just such an exciting industry – connecting the world through flight.
Tell us about your career to date
The majority of my career has been centred on customer service and support. I started out managing Delta Air Lines’ customer support division, based in Wichita, and then moved to Koch Industries, also in Wichita, to lead the quality department for its aviation division. In 1999, I joined Raytheon Aircraft – which was the owner of the Hawker and Beechcraft business aircraft families – as director of the global parts organisation. During my career at the company, I took on additional roles and responsibilities in the service organisation and eventually became the senior vice-president of global customer service and support. Before moving into my current role at Textron Aviation, I served as senior vice-president of turboprop aircraft and interior design, where I was responsible for the development of our popular turboprop platforms and led the interior design team.
What are your current duties?
I’m responsible for the interior design and engineering for all of Textron Aviation’s broad product line-up. My previous experience in customer support lets me see things from a customer point of view. I don’t have an engineering background, so I really challenge my team to think outside of the box and find ways we can incorporate customer input in everything we do. That’s how we are developing our new large-cabin [Cessna] Citation Hemisphere jet. We continue to engage regularly with our customer advisory board, which is comprised of industry executives operating various products in this class, to affirm what customers need in this segment. This input is a key influence as we continue to develop this world-class aircraft.
How is the business and general aviation sector faring today?
We are seeing excellent results with our new Citation Latitude, which has become one of the world’s best-selling business jets since entering the market in August 2015. It is now the leader in the midsize segment, with more deliveries in 2016 than any other aircraft in its category. This is encouraging and reflects the growth that we’re seeing across many of our product segments. We remain focused on investing in our products to help invigorate the business aviation sector.
Describe your typical day
No two days are ever really the same for me, but the majority of my days are centred around our customers – that is, whether I am sitting in a design session and helping them to spec their aircraft, collaborating with our customer advisory boards, or working with my talented team to bring the next-generation of cabin technology and features to our customers.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy building strong relationships with our customers and incorporating their feedback in our class-leading aircraft. It is amazing when I see how excited our customers get when taking delivery of an aircraft that they helped design.
What are the challenges?
The challenge is really just trying to make sure we are keeping up to date with the latest technologies that are ever-evolving, while working with the regulatory authorities to ensure we can bring these new features to our customers in a timely manner. As we are designing the cabins of our future aircraft, we have to ensure they have the flexibility to accommodate a variety of technologies to stay state-of-the-art.