Alyssa Mueller is an aircraft mechanic who has worked at Thunder Airlines for over three years.
She studied at Confederation College in Thunder Bay and continues to stay in touch with her former teachers. After graduating, she started handing resumes out and ended up with an interview at the company.
“I find it very fun because every day is a little bit different, so even though you’re going to work in the same place every day, it’s always a different job,” says Mueller. “We have three different types of aircraft that we work on and each has very different needs. You can be doing anything from engine changes one day to inspections the next day to greasing landing gear. It’s a very versatile trade.”
There are two crews—a day shift and a night shift—and Mueller typically works with two to three other people on each. The other mechanics on the floor are what make the job such a joy. “I love my co-workers,” she says, “and I don’t have any complaints about them.”
This past year, the pandemic certainly threw everything out of whack; it definitely had a huge impact on aviation, Mueller says. The company’s charters hadn’t been flying as much, which was both good and bad. It meant the mechanics had more time to catch up on work on the airplanes and to do little enhancements to make them more cosmetically appealing. “At the same time, a plane on the ground isn’t making money,” she says.
Thunder Airlines was very fortunate because they also offer Medevac Flight services. Because of this, Mueller was able to keep her job throughout the pandemic. “You’re always going to need Medevac Flights. People are always going to need medical attention,” she explains.
Mueller also happens to be a talented welder. She took a couple of welding courses while she was in college and always had a general interest in it. She is able to fix parts on the airplane that crack or require servicing and is the only one on staff certified to do so under the Aircraft Maintenance Organization. “I’m the first one under Thunder Airlines’ name to get it, so that’s kind of cool,” she says. Aircraft welding uses the TIG method, which is a true specialty. “There aren’t too many people that do it and not too many young people either.”
She would love to see that change. There aren’t many other female aircraft mechanics in her industry or at her workplace. In fact, offhand she could think of only two others she has seen. She often goes back to Confederation College and is happy to report that she is seeing a lot more young women in the programs.
“It’s nice to see because there’s no reason a woman can’t do this job if they want to. It’s a good trade for women, it’s very meticulous work. It takes a lot of thinking and organization and those are qualities a lot of women naturally have,” she says.
If they think they can do it, there’s just no reason they can’t.
“There is so much glory in this job too and it is a cool title. I understand it’s not for everyone, but I do love going into work every day and getting to goof around with the boys. If someone is interested in this profession, I would honestly say go for it, the sky’s the limit—literally,” she laughs.
To underscore her point, Mueller excitedly lists the many areas you could consider going into. That list includes avionics, welding, non-destructive testing, helicopters, small airplanes, large airplanes, turbine engines, pistons—there’s pretty much everything for your liking, she says.
There are a few programs aimed specifically at women in aviation, so it’s definitely worth doing a little digging. Resources and mentorship are available from Canadian Women in Aviation and Fly Canada, for example.
We have to encourage women to get into the field, she says. Mueller has met a lot of women who say, “’Oh, I can’t go into the trade, there’s too many guys.’ Well, that’s why!” she laughs. “All it takes is one member at a time.”
For more information, visit Thunder Airlines.