About Taste of Aviation

Taste of Aviation (TOA) is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization offering youths and adults of all ages, introductory and limited educational exposure to the aviation and aerospace industries. TOA is the brainchild of a concerned parent, Linda Jeffries and an aviation professional, Thelma Rudd. They both saw and joined together to address the void in thoughtful aviation exposure to young students and others. While celebrating the vast diversity in the skies, TOA also highlights history, civics, society, technology, and employment. Using aviation as the platform, TOA aims to improve communication and leadership abilities as we interact in our ever changing world. Although not everyone wants a career in aerospace, a “Taste of Aviation” will encourage all to “Keep Looking Up!”

Read What the FAA Says About Us Here.

Taste of Aviation Board of Directors

Thelma Rudd, (President) hired with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1980 and has many years of experience as an enroute air traffic controller, enroute automation specialist and conflict resolution mediator. Because it is rare for women to compete successfully in this field, Ms. Rudd is committed to ensuring that youth of all ages understand the value of diversity and the many options in aviation and aerospace. She holds an undergraduate degree in Aviation Management from the University of Memphis and has served in leading capacities in many aerospace organizations. She is completing a book, Beale Street Takes Flight! Aviation in Memphis and the Mid-South!  

Linda Jeffries (Treasurer) is successfully self-employed and has a young son, Justin, who plans to become an airline pilot. When she was looking for aviation activities for eight year old Justin, there were none.  Always the problem solver, Ms. Jeffries went to work and coordinated with Ms. Rudd to create an exciting airspace activity for younger students. Because of Ms. Jeffries’ creative thoughts, the names “Taste of Aviation” and “Saturday Flight School” were born.  She is an active parent and among her kudos, has served as President of Justin’s School PTA.

Celika Caldwell (Secretary/Recorder) brings over 20 years of outstanding leadership in product development, marketing, and commercialization within large Fortune 500 corporate environments and small technology startups to “Taste of Aviation“. As Head of Customer Experience Management, Oracle ACX, she has proven experience leading organizations in the adoption of customer experience management discipline that results in better business and customer outcomes. Prior to joining Oracle, Celika was Vice President, Customer Experience Design at AARP, where she led the design, orchestration, and development of enhanced consumer experiences. Celika has also led several marketing teams at FedEx along with the global rollout of FedEx’s Customer Experience strategy. Celika holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Taste of Aviation Advisory Board

“Zack” Stephney is a licensed pilot and an avid aviation enthusiast.  As a kid growing up he had his first Taste of Aviation when he went to Memphis to see a cousin. It was his first airplane ride with Eastern Airlines. He remembers sitting at the window enjoying the view with the earth below. As he was looking out the window he could see the flaps move and when they landed he knew that he was in love with airplanes.

From elementary to high school, he read a lot on airplanes and on the weekends his mom would take him to watch the commercial planes arrive and depart from Hartsfield airport.  When given the opportunity to get involved in Taste of Aviation, he jumped on board!  Zack says; “ I am glad to be part of this new chapter, because  as a pilot now I can give another youth that Taste of Aviation… Looks like a great day to FLY!!!!”

Shirley Blache is a dedicated Library Media Specialist with the public school system, who is passionate about education and service to her community. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Rust College and a Master of Library Science Degree from University of Southern Mississippi.

Upon completing the Aerospace Workshops at the University of Memphis, she left with the feeling of “Wow this is awesome” and the resolve to “do something” with all she had learned. Project Altitude, an aviation education program, was founded out of her “do something” resolution. She says; “In addition to Project Altitude, I am committed to education and service to the community, and I fully support the mission and vision of Taste of Aviation and its Saturday Flight School”.

Pat Thompson is a graduate of Mississippi Valley State University. She worked for TN College of Applied Technology (TCAT) as Coordinator of the Aviation Department where they trained Aircraft Mechanics and Avionics Techs. Pat stays active in the Aviation industry with Women in Aviation and serving on the TCAT advisory board.