Logo: Launch into Aerospace

Danielle Vardaro: Calling The Plane Doctor


Young Aerospace Engineers Does she work late nights as a mad scientist on Bill Nye? Does she work in forensic labs on CSI? Does she serve as a plane “doctor?”

Pick the least obvious choice and you would be correct.

Danielle Vardaro may not use needles or stethoscopes or wear scrubs at her job, but there is some similarity to the TV drama Grey’s Anatomy. Although she didn’t mention a McDreamy or McSteamy when describing her job, (she’s quite content with her boyfriend, McWineboy, outside of the aviation world), Danielle did discuss the high pressure situations, strict deadlines and scientific expertise involved in her career.

Vardaro works as a liaison engineer on the Everett Flightline, which means she does “check-ups” on all 747/767/777 planes before they hit the runway. In a nut shell, Vardaro uses her mechanical engineering skill-set and training as an FAA certified Material Review Board Engineer, to make sure there are no “scrapes or bruises” to the fuselage, engines, flight deck, landing gear, electrical system, interior and everything and anything in between. She serves as the final approval before the aircraft is ready to fly.

Danielle did not go to medical school like the doctors on the TV series; instead she went to Tufts University where she studied engineering and played lacrosse and basketball. Choosing to become an engineer- creating everlasting entities, affecting millions of people, and changing the world- were job requirements for Danielle. While working full-time, Danielle decided to return to school to pursue her masters in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington with the help of a tuition reimbursement plan from Boeing. After 2.5 years of juggling a part-time grad student work-load with a fully time work schedule, on top of trying to manage a very active social life, Danielle completed her graduate program this spring.

Tufts and UW taught Vardaro the skills and expectations of her job, but nothing compares with hands-on experience and sharpening your instincts. Everyday Vardaro thinks creatively, aims high and grows her technical skills so she’ll be able visit Boeing’s partner sites around the world.

Aside from her daily work obligations, Vardaro focuses on providing a positive role model for girls. She hopes to instill her interests and passions into young women today by participating in programs like Nerd Girls and the Team America Rocketry Challenge. These programs give young girls realistic role models. Yet the aerospace industry needs “star power” to create iconic role models. Imagine our very own plane doctor in that role:

The leading character Danielle, works daily with her fellow female plane doctors under high pressure situations in the misty Seattle area. A new commercial airline customer, also known as McDreamy, attracts Danielle’s attention but she must remain unbiased at work. Meanwhile, a fellow colleague gets swept off her feet by a visiting pilot, McSteamy. Drama ensues…

Does that sound like a winning “pilot” TV episode, or what?

By Kristin Trumble