Many women work daily in technical roles at Duncan Aviation. These women are airframe mechanics; avionics and engine technicians; interior and paint specialists; design, electrical, computer, and structural engineers; and flight line reps. Even though aviation is traditionally a male-dominated field, there are plenty of career options available for women with rapid growth and excellent salary potential.
Read on about four of these women–an airframe shift supervisor, landing gear master technician, avionics crew leader, and an engineering designer–who have decided to take the road less traveled and make their way and careers in aviation at Duncan Aviation.
At the age of seven, Jayme Park had her first experience floating in a hot air balloon. But it wasn’t until the young impressionable age of 12, when she rode in a D23 biplane at an airshow, that she knew she wanted a career in aviation. “I was hooked.”
She pursued that dream and for the last 21 years, Jayme has been working for Duncan Aviation in Battle Creek, Michigan. She is the shift supervisor leading teams of airframe, engine, fuel, interior, and accessories technicians. She has enjoyed her tenure and feels very fortunate for her career at Duncan Aviation. “I am lucky. I get to do what I love, for a company that values me for my skills and leadership abilities.”
Sarah White has had two aviation careers. The first, courtesy of the United States Air Force, took her around the world working on hydraulics, flight controls, wheels, inflight refueling, and weapons systems aboard Boeing B-52s, F-4 Phantom II fighters, and KC-135 Stratotankers.
After retirement from the military, her second aviation career began when she saw an advertisement for a hydraulics technician in Lincoln, Nebraska, while reading her newspaper and drinking her morning coffee. Twenty-three years later, Sarah is the senior member of the team and a master technician overhauling landing gear for business aircraft such as Challengers.
Being the only woman on a team of men is not without its conflicts, but Sarah says for the most part it has been a positive experience. “Bias happens, but not as often as you would think.” Her advice to anyone doing what she does is to be confident in what you know and then put your head down and do the work. She says it’s customers who are sometimes caught short when she is called in for a consultation. “But as soon as I begin talking intelligently about the squawk and what I am going to do about it, we move past it quickly.” She says it is important to be able to take pressure and criticism on the job, no matter who you are.
After five years in the U.S. Navy and with an advanced electronics and avionics degree from Colorado Aero Tech, Kelly Allman found her way to Duncan Aviation in 1999 and onto the hangar floor as an avionics installation technician. Her first assistant manager was another woman, who from the very beginning expected the best from Kelly. “She always expected the most out of me and held me and the rest of the team to a very high standard.” Kelly is very appreciative of her expectations, advice, and encouragement because “I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.”
Today, Kelly is a crew leader of a team of nine avionics installation technicians. She expects the best from them. “When you’re touching these aircraft, you have to bring your best. You are touching lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female.”
As the only engineer at Duncan Aviation’s Provo, Utah, location, Karen Itin is kept busy creating schematic drawings for interior structures supporting aircraft cabinets, seats, and antennas. It is this behind-the-scenes aspect of her work that she likes most about her job.
When she first started, technicians would come off the floor looking for the design engineer, and it was obvious they were looking for a man. “You can’t take it personally. Instead, you use it as an opportunity to communicate and show them what you can do.”
Her advice to young women thinking about exploring a career in a field that has been traditionally dominated by men is to “Just do it!” The only limitations are the ones you place on yourself. To get more women in the field is to be the woman in that field. Be brave. You can do it. Others will come join you.”