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Ann Smirr Pioneers Fraport

Anne Smirr, Sales-Marketing Manager, Fraport Cargo Services

     “Sometimes you walk in on a joke you weren’t supposed to hear, furthermore, I don’t know how to pack a pallet,” declared Anne Smirr, the sales manager at Fraport Cargo Services, on how it is being a woman in the cargo business. “I started here when I was 22, and it wasn’t always easy,” Ms. Smirr said. “To some extent, it’s still a man’s world.” She’s been at Fraport for almost a decade now.
     Ms. Smirr said there’s an efficient and creative mix of people working in the FCS-team:
     “I come from university, other colleagues made their way through the cargo industry. I see the benefit in the combination of both worlds, because all parties bring different skills and talents into the company and can complement each other.”      Another aspect of the work she likes: the many different cultures she meets both at Fraport and through her customers.
     At the moment, she said she’s busy with the start of holiday cargo season, preparing for upcoming marketing at trade shows around the world, and also renegotiating contracts with customers for next year.
     Ms. Smirr studied economics at the university of Mannheim through a Fraport sponsored program, and then started with the company - first at Frankfurt Hahn, with a short stint working in the controlling department there.
     Her words of advice for young women that might want to get into the air cargo business:
     “Be flexible and have patience. If you prove to people that you are reliable and can be trusted, you’ll get respect,” words to live by in any business, really. “In this business and this environment, people are open and direct; you can sometimes get negative feedback about something, but you talk about it and it’s soon forgotten,” she said.

     Michele Wilkinson, the First Lady of Tailwind International Air Charters, formed her company in 1989.
     Prior to owning and running her own company she worked for Braniff International, the Flying Tiger Line and some well-known international air freight forwarders.
     She loves to tell stories about being a “ramp rat” at DFW airport for Braniff International Airline.
     Since the onset of Tailwind, Michele has made an impact on the air cargo business as well as set a standard for Air Charter Brokers in the industry.
     As President of her company, she assures it is run with the utmost integrity, extensive knowledge and experience.
     If things are difficult, unusual, or need to go right now – Michele is the “go to lady.”
     She has been intricately involved in moving such items as supplies and generators for disaster relief, engines for Airlines’ AOG needs, live animals such as Ostriches to China, United Nations troop movements, ancient ice core for scientific research and athletic teams, complete with musher dogs, for the Artic Winter Games.
     These are just some of the more unusual trips Michele has organized, monitored and often times accompanied.
     In 2001 Michele and Tailwind made news when her company was responsible for moving the Navy EP3 aircraft from Hainan Island, off the coast of mainland China, back to the United States.
     With the Tailwind offices as a coordination hub and Michele at the staging point at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, working with the U.S. Navy, several governments and the Lockheed Martin technicians who performed the dismantlement of the aircraft, the mission was successfully completed when the Russian Airline, Polet Air Cargo, safely brought the fuselage back to U.S. soil.
     If you have ever thought of moving anything by chartered aircraft, Michele and Tailwind have probably done it, and always with enthusiasm, love of the industry, competency and a “Can Do” attitude!
Kay Long

Editor’s Note: Kay Long is Human Resources Manager at Tailwind. She submitted this piece in honor of her boss saying this is one woman who has made a difference in air cargo for many people. The homage is presented here as a surprise to Michelle, with many thanks to Kay.