Nurturing Airline’s Jumbo Jets
In the traditionally testosterone-laden world of commercial aircraft maintenance, a young lady from a family with deep ties to aviation has distinguished herself with her deep passion for airplanes and attentive devotion to her work.
Nurturing Airline’s Jumbo JetsBy Sandy Lo
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 593 )
“I just love the way the lines of the petals look. It’s so lovely,” says the ebullient, confident 34-year-old Chang Yu-ching, referring not to the early spring green “petals” blossoming on trees, but the Chinese homonym for the turbine blades of a large passenger jet engine.
Why did she study in the Aerospace Engineering Department at Tamkang University? Why did she choose to become a maintenance engineer? And why has she worked at this job for a decade since graduating? “I just love airplanes!” Chang answers matter-of-factly.
A China Airlines Maintenance Department technician, Chang was born and raised in Taitung. Her father was a maintenance engineer for the Air Force, and her paternal grandfather in Hsinchu and maternal grandfather in Tainan both served in the Air Force. Growing up frolicking around three different Air Force dependents’ villages, airplanes were in her blood from a very young age.
As a maintenance technician, Chang’s favorite task is assembly, taking apart, repairing and maintaining, and re-fitting the more than 28,000 parts of an airplane engine. “It’s like playing with models at work every day,” she says with a chuckle.
Chang has had her hands on the hearts of such big birds as the Boeing 747-400, 737-800, and the Airbus A340.
Like model building, assembly is not simple work. The hardest part of the process is the precision, such as matching the grooves on both sides of air bypass ducts and intakes, so that the components form an even circle when fitted together. Not every maintenance technician is able to complete such tasks, but the meticulous Chang is able to carry out such precise tasks with ease.
Dexterous and thorough, she was a member of the first group of four technicians dispatched to Cincinnati in the USA in 2013 to learn how to conduct maintenance on the world’s largest twin-engine passenger jet, the Boeing 777, and to personally direct the engine assembly for China Airlines’ first 777.
In the maintenance hangar, Chang moves about methodically, her movements deliberate. Looking around the facility, there are only three female among the 100 engine technicians. Chang fits right in, saying everything is fine as long as one is not averse to getting one’s hands dirty – and it is true that getting deep into oil and grime is a big part of the job.
Strength Not An Issue
How does a woman move parts and components that routinely weigh in at 50 kilograms? Laughing, Chang says she has plenty of strength, but as the smirk recedes from her face she adds, “The physical differences between men and women can be mitigated by tools, and being sure to double check to make up for any lack of attentiveness. Nothing is impossible if you just believe in yourself.”
“My dream is to get my hands on a B-2 stealth bomber, the black one that looks like a UFO, because of its beautiful, sleek lines,” Chang says. Men love the feeling of flying an airplane through the skies, and Chang works on holding their beauty together. It is this lovely distinction that has helped make her a top aircraft maintenance technician.
Translated from the Chinese by David Toman