Fast 5: Mother-Daughter Duo Pursues MRO Career Paths Together

Rebecca and Hannah Hines

Rebecca and Hannah Hines are a mother-daughter duo currently enrolled in the same Aviation Maintenance Technology program at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois. They spoke with Aviation Week about the unique experience of pursuing MRO career paths together—as well as how the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has affected their training.

How did both of you end up deciding to pursue careers in aviation maintenance—and what inspired Hanna to follow in her mother’s footsteps?

Rebecca: I had been a stay-at-home mom for 20 years and realized once my nest was empty, I would need something to keep me occupied. I had been hearing about the Rockford Airport (RFD) expansions and after a quick search, saw there were a lot of jobs in the field. I applied to the Rock Valley College Aviation Maintenance Technology program and got in. I went in with a goal to turn wrenches and make money; about four months in I fell in love with aviation. My dream job is to work in aviation safety—I am passionate about keeping people safe.

Hannah: Once my mom fell in love with aviation, she was constantly going to fly-ins and aviation events. My father eventually got sick of going with her (it's not his thing) and she started asking me to join instead. Of course I was going to say yes—a day of food, looking at cool planes and hanging out with my mom? Who could say no to that?

Eventually the seed was planted, and I started to enjoy going and getting to know people. I would occasionally bring a lunch in for my mom while she was at school, so I began to be familiar with the school itself as well. One day, I decided to just do it. I went into main campus, talked to a counselor and practically overnight, with no warning, I was enrolled and starting on Monday.

What is it like being in the same training program together? Have there been opportunities to work together or help each other out?

Rebecca: Although we only overlapped for one semester, it was terrific. We would often have dinner together and sometimes I could answer her questions on a lab or show her where things were on an airplane. We took a daily selfie, many of them silly, and all of them reflected our moods.

Hannah: I have to admit I was very nervous when we began the semester. I know what mama bear looks like and nobody in that school did. It ended up being so wonderful, to have someone there who is going to look out for me, and to answer all the questions of a scared first-year student. That building was intimidating, and nothing makes you feel safer than knowing your mom is right there to look out for you. It ended up being one of the most amazing semesters and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

What has been the highlight of your A&P training so far and what type of career within aviation maintenance are you most interested in obtaining once you graduate?

Rebecca: The highlight of my training has been the scholarships I have earned, because they prove to me that people stand up, say, “I believe in you,” and help me financially. The two I am most proud of are the Belvidere Twilight Flyers, because this is a local group and I was their first scholarship recipient. I keep in touch with them and they are incredibly supportive. The second award I am deeply honored to have received is the Airbus Women in Leadership Grant, awarded at the Women in Aviation Conference in March this year. I strive to be the epitome of professionalism, and this prestigious award served as the capstone toward that goal.

Rebecca Hines receiving the Airbus Women in Leadership Grant

Amanda Simpson, vice-president for research and technology at Airbus America, presented my award and read my safety motto: “We take tiny buildings and we hurl them through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, tens of thousands of feet above the surface of the earth, and we fill them with people. We have to be better.” As we walked off the stage together, I told her I was honored that she read my motto. “I wanted to end on it,” she said. The impact of that on me was huge. This huge, well-respected aviation company believes in me. 

Hannah: I love receiving this question, mainly because the answer is that I have no idea. I'm still so very new to aviation and have so much time to decide what path I want to take. Going to the Women in Aviation conference showed me a lot of paths I didn't know existed, that I am currently looking at. As of right now I am unsure of what the future will hold for me after graduation. Hopefully a job, hopefully one I like.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked quite a bit of havoc on the aviation industry and A&P training programs. What has the effect been on your training and anticipated graduation at Rock Valley College?

Hannah: All of our schooling has been transferred online. It is an odd adjustment for all, but we are making it work. The school has been working with the FAA to come up with a program that keeps us at home, but also still learning. For our hands-on classes it has been difficult to be staring at PowerPoints constantly—it makes you sincerely miss getting your hands on those little airplanes. I am lucky enough that I am still fairly early on, and in most of our classes we have done enough hands-on that the FAA is okay with the rest of our stuff being online. The second-year students aren't so lucky and still have mandatory labs they have to finish—and no time to do so. It's a tough situation and I'm sure they will come up with a solution soon. But for now, everybody is online, and I'm sure spending a lot of time with our pets.

Rebecca: This is my last semester, and we have no idea when we will be able to get back into the hangar to finish our labs and classes. We have heard no information on this, which is typical for this unprecedented situation. I am eager to finish, get my license and explore the ever-changing workforce opportunities.

What do you think is the best way for the MRO industry to recruit and retain women into its workforce?

Hannah: I sincerely believe that we have to start getting women interested at young ages. We have to plant the seed so that they start getting excited early on. Before my time is up at school I would like to start an outreach program for Girl Scouts and kids of all ages in our community to come and see what aviation is all about. I want them to get excited! MRO can do a lot for women, and I think supporting something like this, or programs similar, would be great for the community, great for future women and great for the future workforce.

Rebecca: Pay well and make an effort to ensure all workers are treated with respect. By eliminating the “Boys Club” mentality from the hangar floor, it creates a more professional environment for everyone, which makes everyone feel safe in their work environment. A happy worker is a productive worker, which drives up profits. Management sets the stage and leads the way for professionalism, and by raising the bar, everyone wins. By reaching out to women directly and proving they offer a welcoming workspace, it will help them attract talented women and retain them.

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 aviationweek.com, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.