International Women in Engineering Day 2023
Category: AirTanker Released: 23 June 2023
We spoke to Louise MacLeod, Technical Support Engineer, about her career in engineering and the importance of highlighting the opportunities available to women in this exciting industry...
Hi Louise! Can you tell us about your role?
I’m a Technical Support Engineer. I work with the Part 145 Planning department to provide technical expertise, when planning the Voyager heavy maintenance checks.
I also work on the shop floor as a hands on engineer, in order to keep my aircraft maintenance licence current.
What drew you towards a career in engineering, and what do you enjoy about your role?
I really enjoy my role because it’s the first office-based role I’ve taken on since I first became an aircraft engineering apprentice. I’ve seen a different side to engineering and am learning about how the Planning department operates and what goes into planning a maintenance check, as well as being able to use my engineering knowledge in the role. There are many projects coming up, such as preparing for the MMF third party work, and I am looking forward to the challenge of implementing a new way of working. I was first drawn to engineering after my mum dragged me to a careers fair (kicking and screaming) and I saw a course for aircraft maintenance. I spent the day at Northbrook College in Shoreham, and the rest is history. As the saying goes, ‘Mum knows best’.
The theme this year is ‘Make Safety Seen’. What Safety related aspects do you encounter in your role?
Safety is the number one priority when planning maintenance checks. As part of my role, I assess tasks that have been planned for the check to identify safety-critical tasks. One example of this is that the aircraft operate on ETOPS (Extended Twin Operations), which means they must be maintained to higher standards than non-ETOPS aircraft.
ETOPS approval allows the aircraft to fly routes that are further than one hour from an airport, which has the benefit of making the flight times shorter and saving fuel. The aircraft must be able to demonstrate that it is able to make an emergency landing at the nearest airport with only one operative engine. One of the restrictions of maintaining aircraft on ETOPS is that work should not be carried out simultaneously on safety-critical systems such as the fuel system, auto flight etc. When the aircraft is on a 12-year check, it is in the hangar for 100 days, and it may not be possible to avoid this situation. It’s my job to highlight these tasks to Maintrol, who will arrange a verification flight after the maintenance check to ensure that the aircraft systems are operating correctly.
Can you tell us some of the highlights of your career so far?
I was lucky enough to go on an air-to-air refuelling flight recently, and it was amazing to see the Voyager aircraft in action. As I’ve worked in base maintenance for almost 20 years, you get so used to seeing the aircraft stripped down that you can almost forget that they’re built to fly, so it was incredible to see the aircraft in action and understand the important role that AirTanker plays with the RAF.
What advice would you give to other women or young girls who are looking to take up a career in engineering?
I’ve loved my career in engineering, it’s given me so many opportunities both professionally and socially. I’ve been fortunate to travel to places like Hong Kong, Cuba, and the Caribbean through staff travel, and I even got sent in a private jet to turn around a Boeing 747 in Dublin on one occasion! I’ve had the opportunity to gain my aircraft licence and a management qualification, which have both helped me develop as a professional. I also love working in the hangar environment. I’ve met the best people through engineering, who have become friends for life. There are so many facets to engineering, such as being a hands-on engineer, the various back-office engineering support staff, and the engineering safety team; there’s something for everyone.