Opinion: Thoughts On A Lifetime In MRO Advocacy

Plans for the presentation of Aviation Week’s Lifetime Achievement Award for MRO were kept secret from me. I was not only physically unprepared (in farming clothes with a bad hair day) but emotionally floored. After pure disbelief, the surge of joy that we (ARSA’s team, the board, the industry) have been recognized for hard, unrelenting and (supposedly) thankless work was overwhelming. It provides armor against the slings and arrows of remarks like “nobody else is complaining,” “nobody else sees it that way,” “nobody else cares enough” associated with regulatory compliance activities.

Since that time, other thoughts have come up. One is gratitude that my upbringing was so unconventional. Papa raised me with three rules that provided me the foundation to “be somebody.” The first maxim was: Don’t be financially dependent on anyone—learn a trade or enter a profession that will always provide you with income. That admonishment led me to learn to type and take shorthand, which allowed me to work for lawyers, become an office manager and go to law school.

The next solid block in this foundation was: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you are a woman. For years, I didn’t recognize that things were not going my way simply because of my physical appearance. Looking back, I am glad I was so ignorant—I just thought others didn’t understand or were just, well, stupid.

Papa’s last law for his youngest daughter was: Question authority. That one is probably a large reason that I receive any recognition—and until now, it hasn’t always been of the most positive type.

The gratitude to the old man that raised me (he was 57 when I was born) is extended to every individual who stepped in the way, because challenges are only opportunities in disguise. “Nobody else is complaining” allowed this “somebody” to enable change and enlightenment. Equal appreciation goes to the individuals who helped find open skies—those that took the time to explain, to educate, to push an idea to the next level or finish the work. The bottom line is I could not have achieved this recognition without the team members and colleagues, agency personnel and legislators behind me and the persistent humans, including pushy female lawyers, ahead of me.

It is daunting to be presented with such an honor just when the international aviation maintenance industry and the association founded to support it are finally coming into their own. We have more to achieve before my time in aviation is over, so I sure hope this isn’t folks saying they have had enough of my “Boys, I am taking charge here (B.I.T.C.H.)” style created by those to whom so much is owed.

Sarah MacLeod is managing member of Obadal, Filler, MacLeod & Klein and a founder and executive director of the Aeronautical Repair Station Association.