When Keith Lesch found himself stuck in an airport three years ago due to a maintenance delay, the aircraft or engine issue keeping him on the ground wasn’t just a matter of inconvenience, as it sometimes is.
Keith was rushing home to see his father. His father, Robert Lesch, had previously been diagnosed with a type of terminal brain cancer. For almost a year, Keith would make the 12-hour drive once a month from Ohio to South Carolina to spend time with him. But during this trip, waiting by the gate for boarding to begin, it was a race against time if Keith wanted to say goodbye. With his illness worsening, Robert had been moved to hospice care.
That January 2018, Keith didn’t make it in time, arriving some 40 minutes too late.
Since then, Keith and his wife Danielle Lesch made it their personal missions at GE to help airline customers avoid delays related to maintenance issues, if they can help it.
Keith, director of Data Science Services for GE Digital Aviation Software, helps analyze aircraft flight data to detect performance changes that could be remedied with maintenance work, such as a failing sensor or clogged filter. There are cases where the maintenance actions recommended by Keith and the digital team, when taken, can prevent a delayed flight departure from happening in the first place.
“Being able to see a direct impact from me on the aviation industry and the customer’s experience of that aviation industry is really motivating. My work directly correlates with aircraft departures, the 50-minute delay or whatever that number might be,” said Keith, who has been in his data science leadership role since 2017.
“We actually look at many different scenarios of similar performance on different aircraft leading to either a failure mode that causes those delays or, in the cases where we fixed it, completely preventing it and seeing those aircraft go back to normal behavior rather than the degraded behavior we’re working to identify,” he said.
In fact, Robert Lesch, an aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy, inspired Keith’s love of aviation, with Keith growing up visiting flight lines to see fighter jets takeoff.
Danielle Lesch is currently a Senior Customer Support Manager for GE Aviation, leading product support efforts for regional carriers SkyWest Airlines, Delta Connection and Endeavor Air.
“After this life event we thought long and hard about what we could have done differently. I knew an airline-facing role where I could help our customers keep flying and avoid delays and cancellations was something I HAD to do,” Danielle said.
In her role, Danielle helps customers proactively manage their fleet of GE Aviation CF34 jet engines by being active and involved in all resources and logistics required to perform services and maintenance activities related to their GE-powered fleet. When there are urgent issues such as an operational disruption, she works with a GE Aviation customer team of field service engineers, sales directors, 24/7 Fleet Support and monitoring, and more colleagues to troubleshoot and respond quickly.
The goal is to keep customer engines flying on wing longer, improve engine reliability, and reduce events that would cause someone else trying to get home to loved ones from getting stuck in an airport terminal. “It’s truly a labor of love,” she said.
Danielle first got the “itch” for a customer-facing role while working as a GE controls engineer on site at a customer location in Texas. She joined GE Aviation in 2006 as a design engineer in military control systems, having studied aerospace and mechanical engineering. After getting a taste of customer support, Danielle sought experience to advance her career, seeking roles that put her closer to GE’s customers and obtained a Master of Business Administration. Eventually, she would join the jet engine manufacturer’s professional development program for commercial leadership.
The experience with her father-in-law’s passing only confirmed her crusade to support customers and in February 2019, she accepted her current role after more than a decade of skills-building positions at GE Aviation. As the senior customer support manager for SkyWest Airlines, Danielle helps keep GE Aviation’s largest CF34 operator flying, connecting travelers taking mostly domestic routes just like her husband Keith’s life-changing trip.
In December 2020, SkyWest became the first CF34 operator to reach 25 million engine flight hours with its fleet of more than 1,200 CF34 engines.
“You see, my father-in-law was an aerospace engineer too and he loved the fact his son and I both worked in the aviation business. He’d be proud to know I’m supporting the world’s largest regional airline,” Danielle said.