Aviation for Women

JUL-AUG 2017

Aviation for Women is the flagship member publication of Women in Aviation International. Articles feature women who have made aviation history, professional development ideas, and current-topic articles.

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20 Aviation forWomen J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 7 Ever ybody knows Rosie the Riveter: a woman who wrenched on warbirds as part of a successful gov- ernment campa ign cre- ated to inspire women to work in the factories while the men fought in World War II. What most peo- ple don't realize is that nowadays, real women wrench on aircraft at leading companies where the opportunities for advancement have never been better. "The growth potential is exponential right now," says Jane Shelton, WAI 44527 and qual- ity conformance manager at Airbus' first U.S. manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama. "As it grows, so will the positions." The number of fema le a ircraf t mecha n- ics in the United States has doubled over the past 10 years to 8,400, but represents just 2 percent of aircraft mechanics nationwide, ac- cording to the FAA. Companies like Airbus, Delta Air Lines, The Boeing Company, and UPS want to hire more qualified women. Some 15 percent of employees at Airbus' A l a b a m a op e rat ion are women, more than half of them in techni- cal positions, but the company wants more women. "It's not high enough for us, for sure," says Jane, who is also a board member of the Association for Women in Aviation Mainte- nance (AWAM), a nonprofit that offers numer- ous scholarships for future women mechanics. So what gives? "It's really hard to get women into the indus- try," admits Anna Romer, WAI 16853, who has held five different maintenance jobs over the past 10 years. She has worked at a repair sta- tion, a regional airline, bot h a n en g i ne a nd aircraft manufacturer, and now a private insurance company. Her fa- vorite job is the one she has now: wrenching on the Gulfstream 450 at American Family In- surance in Madison, Wisconsin. The high sal- ary makes her feel like she is finally getting paid for the responsibility she takes on. When a safety issue arises, Anna says, "Everybody is in agreement. They aren't going to question it." At previous jobs, the pressure to get the plane flying made troubleshooting harder. Auto me- chanics get paid more, but don't have near- ly the stress that aircraft mechanics face ev- ery day, she adds: "When an aircraft mechanic leaves for the day, it's still on his or her mind." For example, take Judith Grigsby, WAI 53815 and a helicopter base mechanic at Air Evac L i fe te a m, who s e p a t ie n t s could die if the helicopter isn't airworthy. Judith is employed at the second-largest medical evacuation company in the country, where approximate- ly 160 mechanics take care of 120 medically equipped Bell 206 Long Ranger and Bell 407 helicopters, plus some fixed- wing aircraft. To deal with tight deadlines, Judith has created a network of buddies she can call in a pinch when she's stumped on a system. "There's a lot of pressure to get it right," she explains. "When you are one of two females in the entire company, that does give a little bit of by Linda Berlin The Might 2 Percent Female Aircraft Mechanics Make Strides Anna Romer

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