Growing up in a rural town in Northwest New Jersey, my home was close to a small airport and I would watch the little planes and gliders right from my backyard. My mom would take my brothers and I to the airport Runway Cafe where we would watch all the exciting things happening as we ate. After we moved to California, we traveled back east a lot to visit family and friends, and I always fought my brothers for the window seats on our flights; while they played their video games, I stared out the window and constantly drove my parents nuts asking questions about airplanes.
While in school, I spent most of my time literally right next to LAX at Otis College of Art & Design, where I could look out the window of my classrooms and see the planes on the runway. The idea of flying started to cross my mind more and more, and come senior year I created my Capstone project on designing female pilot uniforms to encourage more women to join the industry. Lo and behold, the time I spent writing the paper was just the push that I needed. Post graduation, my parents bought me a flight lesson for my birthday and I was immediately hooked. I signed myself up for flight school. I was spending a lot of time at Van Nuys airport going to flight school, and I found myself searching for aviation related jobs.
As a private pilot, I’m familiar with the electrical system in a single engine airplane and prefer to know how everything works so I know and the ins and outs. I’m hoping the creative skills that I bring to the table will assist in growing this side of our business. Everyday at work is different. It really depends on what projects we are working on and what departments need help. There are so many things to learn in aviation and I really do learn something new everyday. At the hangar I’m either designing at my desk, fabricating something in the shop or working on jobs inside the plane. Believe me, for someone who is near 6 feet tall, having to crawl in the cockpit is not a simple task. I also spend a lot of time talking with customers about their wants/needs regarding materials and color schemes, talking with vendors collecting samples and pricing, completing flammability paperwork and material build up for burn testing, and creating quotes for upholstery and fabrication related jobs. Every once in a while I will help out the Marketing Department with some logo designing. I’m a very hands on person and love to get my hands dirty, but most importantly I’m open to learning anything and everything. One of the many reasons I love my job is because of the people I work with. I enjoy working with the guys because we have a lot of fun but we get work done. We grab our tools, get inside the plane and get dirty disassembling and installing everything back together. Work would definitely not be the same without them. It is sometimes intimidating for me being the only female who currently works on the floor but growing up with 3 brothers and having mostly boys in my large family makes all of it feel normal to me. I feel like I’m just one of the boys when I’m at work.
I am definitely learning a lot. School gave me the basics but being at Western Jet has allowed me to improve on all of my skills and take them to the next level. It can be challenging and frustrating at times but finding solutions and bringing ideas to life gives my job so much more meaning. Seeing the before and after transformations gives all of us a sense of accomplishment, and I’m proud to say that I am a part of that! Working at Western Jet has allowed me the opportunity to meet some pretty incredible people who are always willing to teach or give me advice, and those contacts will forever be valuable to me. Based on my school research and job experience, the gender gap in the aviation industry is finally starting to narrow. I was hesitant in exploring aviation career options because of that, but the opportunities are really endless. I’ve always been one to follow my dreams and don’t give up doing so. Whether it’s avionics, pilot, designer, maintenance, inspector or anything else, find your interests, do your research and get out there and talk to people, be open to different things. I always try to find the confidence to speak with airline pilots while waiting at gates for flights, and even joined organizations including the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots. Those incredible ladies not only provided guidance while I went through flight school but brought me up in their personal planes, allowed me to shadow them at work and helped me brainstorm on how to apply my product design degree within the industry. Had it not been for all those people in my life and the encouragement to apply at Western Jet, I probably wouldn’t be here today and for that I am extremely thankful. I know this is just the beginning for me, who knows what the future holds!