Fast 5: Mobilizing Women in MRO

Elena Gonzalez
Credit: American Airlines

Elena Gonzalez is an aviation maintenance technician (AMT) at American Airlines’ Fort Lauderdale base who is putting together an all-female team for this year’s Aerospace Maintenance Competition. As Women’s History month draws to a close, Aviation Week spoke with Gonzalez about her AMT journey and how the industry can recruit more women into MRO careers.

What drew you to a career in aviation maintenance, and what has your journey been like so far?

My journey started when I was in high school. I was offered a dual enrollment with George T. Baker Aviation School. Originally, I thought the school was for flying (when I was little that was my dream) but when I found out that it was about maintenance, I decided to give it a shot—and as it turned out, I was very good at it. Understanding how an aircraft works was like second nature to me and, well, the rest is history. I wouldn’t say the journey has been an easy one. The work is very manual and I’m a female in a male dominated industry. But it has taught me a lot about myself and where I’m going. I have worked overhaul, heavy maintenance, hangar maintenance and line maintenance. The path to get where I am now has been trial and error until I found exactly where I wanted to be, and I like where I am at now.

You recently started a local chapter of the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM). What are your plans with that and what’s on the horizon for the chapter in the near future?

South Florida has a large aircraft maintenance presence, so reaching out is something I aim to do as much as possible. Our goal is to help educate those who are interested in aviation maintenance, inspire those who have a passion and empower those who are in need of encouragement to get through whatever obstacle they may be facing in their process to obtain their A&P license, or who are not sure what their next step in their career path may be.

What do you think is the key to getting more women interested in the MRO field?

Outreach! I feel that most women (honestly, people in general) do not realize that aviation maintenance is a career choice they can make. Therefore, reaching out, whether it be to schools (middle schools, high schools and colleges) or social media, is the way to go!

You have put together an all-female team for this year’s Aerospace Maintenance Competition. Could you tell me a bit about the process of forming the team and what you have been doing to practice for the competition?

All of the female AMTs at American were given an opportunity to be a part of this team and we had many women who were interested. Our team is very diverse and from different stations across the country. It has been one of the things that has made our team so exciting and yet has posed our biggest challenge due to the location of each team member. We built the team off the strengths of each woman and the area of maintenance they currently work in, or have had experience in.

We have been in communication with one another, and everything has been a group effort—from creating our team name (Wicked Wrenches) to coordinating training schedules. We are set to train with the Tulsa Tech team in Tulsa every couple of months.

What do you expect will be the biggest challenge at the AMC, and what are you most looking forward to?

The biggest challenge we face is inexperience with regard to the competition. Most of the team has never competed before. In prep, we have watched various videos to help us know what to expect, but videos and actually competing are two very different things. The team absolutely knows their craft and is prepared to work under extreme pressure to complete the tasks presented. The team is truly pumped for this competition and cannot wait to showcase their talents. We are facing this competition with complete confidence.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.