Illustration: Marcelo Cáceres

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re profiling influential women in aviation to gain insight into how they navigate through a traditionally male-dominated industry.

Christine Negroni
Journalist and Author

Christine Negroni is an award-winning journalist, published author, speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation safety and travel. She began her career in broadcasting as an anchorwoman for a local television network, and later CBS News and CNN where her coverage of the 1996 TWA Flight 800 crash led to her first book, Deadly Departure, which received recognition as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

With her expertise in aviation safety, Negroni has participated on advisory committees for the Federal Aviation Administration, directed investigations on behalf of 9/11 victims’ families with law firm Kreindler & Kreindler and is an on-camera aviation consultant for ABC News. Her investigative work on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 led to her latest book, The Crash Detectives, which was published by Atlantic Books in 2016 and has received praise from Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of the famed Miracle on the Hudson incident.

Negroni actively covers the air travel industry for The New York Times, Air & Space, The Huffington Post and other news organizations, and continues to advocate for aviation safety.

Christine NegroniFAST FACTS

Location: LGA/JFK/EWR

Now Reading: Go For Orbit, Rhea Siddon

Favorite Aircraft: Boeing 747

Brand of Suitcase: ECBC Falcon Wheeled Duffle

Paper or electronic boarding pass: Electronic pass, but paper passport stamp

Passport stamp you wish you had: Egypt

Female role model: My daughter Marian Schembari Negroni is the mother of reinvention. She was blessed with several strengths including insight, creativity and tenaciousness. But what makes her a role model for me and others is how generously she shares her extraordinary mind through her writing and mentoring of women.

How did you become involved in the aviation industry?

When I was young, my parents used to take my siblings and me to Miami International Airport, and we would sit by the fence at the runway and watch the planes take off and land. In college, I had a boyfriend who was a student pilot and he would take me flying. Now he flies the big jets for American Airlines.

I didn’t pay too much attention to aviation until I covered the crash of TWA Flight 800 as a correspondent for CNN in 1996. Then I wrote my first book, Deadly Departure, about that disaster. Learning about how investigations are conducted and the interaction of machine and human was fascinating. What I’ve learned in the 20 years since Flight 800 is a part of my latest book, The Crash Detectives.

What would your advice be to a young woman interested in a career in your field?

Sometimes you’ll hear pilots say, “You can have 1,000 hours of flight experience, or experience the same hour a thousand times.” Male or female, there’s no substitute for the type of learning that comes with time, including time spent making mistakes. We all get it wrong occasionally. The key is recognizing it, learning from it and doing it better the next time.

Why is it important that women are represented equally to men (in terms of numbers and stature) in the aviation industry?

We know that organizations and systems are composed of individuals who bring strengths (yay!) and weaknesses (boo!), and we like that because the product of many brains working together is more robust and complete.

We also know that how people perceive things is deeply influenced by culture and gender. This diversity brings balance and nuance and when you’re dealing with something as complex as aviation, a comprehensive view is always best.

“I’ve been blessed to learn about aviation safety from some of the most influential practitioners, including psychologists, engineers, investigators, regulators and aviators.”

What are you most proud of in terms of your contribution to the aviation industry?

I’ve been blessed to learn about aviation safety from some of the most influential practitioners, including psychologists, engineers, investigators, regulators and aviators. These people have generously shared their expertise and research with me over the years because I’m one of the rare few journalists with the time and the inclination to dive deeply into this complex, multidisciplinary field.

I’ve been able to use this on-the-job training as an advocate for air safety. You can see it in my book The Crash Detectives, which presents a deep and independent analysis of the possible causes of the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370. Many aviation safety experts have reviewed the scenario in my book, and no one has yet found fault with the theory.

So I’m proud to be on the leading edge of a trend where cyber citizens and armchair investigators can push the experts to plug the holes that have been revealed by “what could have been.” We may never know exactly what happened to the Malaysia jetliner, nevertheless, my book suggests things that can be done to prevent something like it from happening in the future, and that may be as close as we get to certainty.

What was your most memorable experience as an airline passenger?

On several flights, I’ve had the opportunity to sit on the flight deck. This is always thrilling. We can’t talk while the plane is on the ground or below 10,000 feet, but I store up my questions and then I pepper the pilots when we are at cruising altitude and things have settled down. Little things that used to make me jittery, like turbulence or the sound of the engines throttling down right after takeoff, no longer worry me. A long overseas flight can get boring for the cockpit crew so I think the times I have flown upfront have been as enjoyable a change of pace for the pilots as it has been for me.

Katie is a contributing editor for APEX Media, based in Paris, France.