NASA People

Center Snapshot: Michelle Munford
Michelle Munford. Image above: Michelle Munford's penchant for flying once included being a flight attendant, now includes seeking a pilot's license and working for NASA Langley. NASA/Sean Smith

Amy Johnson

A small gesture made by a grandparent years ago had a long-lasting effect on one of NASA Langley’s newest employees.

Michelle Munford, a purchasing and administrative assistant with Tessada & Associates, said a book about Amelia Earhart she received as a gift when she was little propelled in her an interest in flying that she has a hard time putting into words.

"I knew then that aviation would always be a part of my life," she said. "I don’t really know what it is about it. Maybe it’s the view from the top or the sense of freedom and adventure that comes with flying."

Though her job keeps her in an office instead of in the air, she is happy just to work around aircraft and to hear the jets above.

She also has learned how much NASA invests in aeronautics.

"I didn’t realize how much research NASA does on aviation," she said. "So much happens here that helps general (commercial) aviation."

Before she began her job at NASA this summer, Munford worked as a flight attendant for 2 1/2 years. Again, it was her passion about flying that put her 30,000 feet up. She said she thoroughly enjoyed the job, though it wasn’t as glamorous as some think.

When the industry started to look shaky, she decided to pursue other options, which brought her to NASA.

"I feel like I’ve come full circle," she said.

To quench her desire for flying, Munford is pursuing getting her pilot’s license. One way or another she plans to spend some time in the air.

Munford likes to keep her sights high. Not only is she pursuing her pilot’s license, but she is also training to run the Athens Marathon in Greece in November.

Though she joked that the marathon will be her first and possibly her last, Munford said it has been a life-long goal of hers to compete in a marathon, though she confesses that she doesn’t really like running.

While the running part may be secondary, it’s the feeling of completing something and attaining a goal that motivates her.

Like the feeling of flying, she says, running a marathon is "empowering."

"I recently completed a half-marathon, and once I did that, I had a bigger vision for myself," she said. "I wanted to finish a whole marathon."

Beyond the marathon in November, Munford dreams of completing a triathlon, but for that she needs to push herself even harder.

Though she was born and raised in Virginia Beach, her family’s fear of water prevented her from learning how to swim

. But like other obstacles, once Munford sets her mind to it, she will reach her goal.

"I will break that fear," she said.