Wichita native is fueling Boeing

A Wichita native is leading the charge for a new plane that's expected to change how the U.S. Air Force operates.

KAKE News got to talk one-on-one with Leanne Caret, who is inspiring others with her story of success, which includes being the first female CEO of Boeing Defense and one of Fortune's most influential women.

Leanne Caret's aviation story starts in the Air Capital of the World.

She came from humble beginnings, raised in Wichita, Kansas.

Now, Caret heads a $21 billion business.

"When I think back about my career. I've been with the company almost 30 years. My mom and dad met at the company, I spent 20 years at the company in Wichita," said Caret.

With a bachelor's degree from Kansas State and a master's from WSU, Caret started her career at Boeing in Wichita.

She quickly began climbing the ranks and in 2016 was named CEO of Boeing Defense.

Caret's rise to the top of the company comes during one of its biggest projects ever: the KC-46 tanker program for the U.S. Air Force.

Coincidentally, the first base that will get the tankers McConnell Air Force Base, in Caret's hometown.

"To know that I'm going to have this capstone moment. It is as much personal as it is professional for me that we can deliver this amazing capability there."

Caret gives all the credit for her success to the company and a support system that for her, started at a young age.

"I just feel very blessed. My folks are amazing, I grew up in an environment where you're only limited by your imagination."

Today, Caret passes on that support to others.

She tells of a recent career day she was invited to at her old middle school, which led to a special encounter with a student.

"This young lady, just brilliant, she said 'I want to be an astronaut.'"

Inspired by the girl's aspirations, Caret dialed up one of her employees, who just happens to be a former NASA astronaut.

"He landed the last space shuttle there at Kennedy space center," Caret can be heard saying to the young girl.
"That's awesome," replies the student.
"Isn't that awesome?" Caret echoes.

And she has advice for others who are growing up in the same place she got her start.

"Don't limit yourself. You don't know what the future holds, so be all in, every day."

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