The first female FAA Aircraft Maintenance Engineer from the Middle east. An interview.

By Aseel Tarawneh
8th Mar, 2023

We spoke with Eslam Al Fasatla, an airframe and power plant maintenance technician. Eslam is the first Middle Eastern woman to hold an American FAA Airframe Power Plant Mechanic License and a Jordanian CARC license. Eslam became the first non-American woman to obtain her FAA certification on August 20, 2021. She booked a flight and went to the Boeing Company in Seattle, where she had worked for five years at Marca Airport.

She then went to Orlando, Florida, where she learned about the requirements to obtain an FAA for license. She has now obtained her FAA license and passed all her exams after years of learning.

Q: Hi Eslam, can I ask you to introduce yourself?

Eslam Al Fasatla: I am a highly experienced airframe and powerplant mechanic with six years of experience and private jet aircraft like Gulfstream g4 50 101,000 ticket legacy 650 Hawker 800 XP and King a B 200 CRJ 200 educated at the Royal Jordanian Air Academy. I studied for three years to become an airframe and powerplant technician. I am entitled to perform routine maintenance on the aircraft after each flight; I am familiar with the systems for maintaining and repairing aircraft. By working on airplanes with aviation safety as my first focus and being familiar with the procedures, I aim to increase aircraft efficiency and reduce turnaround times.

I am the first woman in the Middle East to repair, replace and install airplane wheels. In addition, we perform all necessary pre-flight, post-flight, tire pressure, and other maintenance duties for aircrafts.

Q: You are so passionate, why did you choose for this career?

Eslam Al Fasatla: Since I was in high school, I have had this aspiration. And for me, it was like a passion. These aspects of the aircraft intrigued me. What is the flight theory, how does an aeroplane fly, and where does your luggage go? Everything about airplanes, including permitting pilots to fly, appeared to be mysterious. As a result, I specialized in airframe and engine engineering. I had the full support of my family to make this dream come true. So here we are.

A supervisor with ratings for a variety of aircraft types—not just one or two, but 345 is my long-term career objective. And then you are prepared to take off. To be a mechanic, it would help if you worked under someone else's supervision.

Q: What challenges do women in aviation face more specifically in the field of structural engineering for the aviation industry? What about on gender diversity in aircraft maintenance?

Eslam Al Fasatla: Gender was the fundamental issue. Being a woman is the issue—not being unqualified. Despite the fact that we are capable of anything we set our minds to, my gender was the primary obstacle. There were no women in the maintenance department when I worked for a Jordanian company. I was their first female employee.

The team needed me to demonstrate that I could work on the plane. Gender doesn't matter when you complete a task. Initially, the manager either did not support me or did not trust me. I was kept in the planning and in-service engineering departments so that I could work in offices rather than actual hangars or planes like my co-workers. This was not my plan, so I was enraged and upset.

The supervisor then granted my request for a promotion to the maintenance crew. The company had twelve aircraft, for which I put in a lot of effort because each aircraft had its unique manual. My ability to track down flights has improved. They trusted me to do the pre-fueling and oil change on an airplane by myself.

In the aviation industry, hiring women has not been a priority for airport management over the past ten years. In the electric, airframe, and powerplant sections, however, we have recently observed female pilots and a large number of female engineers. Gender, on the other hand, will, in my opinion, no longer be a problem in 2023.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the safety precautions when working on an aircraft?

Eslam Al Fasatla: As a rule, we consider safety first. Due to the heavy components of the blades we work with, regular maintenance is essential. A maintenance technician must wear safety goggles and face goggles when working on equipment to protect his/her face and eyes from falling objects. In addition, depending on the job and the material, hydraulic changes can be dangerous. As a result, we should shield our hands and face.

I know that working on the engine involves working with sharp edges. Rubber gloves and safety shoes are therefore absolutely necessary. Chemicals and enormous cylinders are present. If you become self-protective, it will help. Simply adhere to daily security procedures. That prioritizes safety.

Large hangars and airports are where planes are kept in terms of safety. Therefore, we must ensure the plane is on wheels. As a result, the aircraft cannot be operated when the wind, rain, or other weather conditions are severe. As a result, whenever the plane is operational, its nose and main landing gear, it sways, so we cover the motors to prevent damage from foreign objects. Various birds may move. Therefore, it should be covered. Everything changes when a tiny object gets into these holes, changing temperature and pressure. Therefore, we must inspect everything inside and outside the plane to ensure safety.

I am responsible for checking the aircraft's temperature and pressure, the wheels' stability, and the pressure in the hydraulic system. In case of an emergency, the plane requires oxygen inside and outside in the form of oil and cylinders. I inspect the engine oil to ensure it is in good condition. Therefore, I should check the engine oil to see if more oil is required. Also, I monitor the state of the rubber on the wheels every day to determine whether there are any cracks or scratches. Before flying an aircraft, I check every part for safety. I make sure every component of an airplane is safe before taking off.

Q: How does the maintenance team connect with the ground handlers? And does this affect the scheduling of airlines?

Eslam Al Fasatla: Our need for situational awareness is exacerbated in the maintenance of airplanes, as in many other fields, by different teams.

Aircraft turnaround times must be minimal to achieve high utilization during intensive operation over short- or medium-haul route networks. Numerous elements have been incorporated into the Trident to improve ground handling and shorten the time spent on the ground during intermediate stops to meet this criterion.

It combines all the components necessary for the success of an airline business, including line maintenance, specialized maintenance planning, troubleshooting, engineering services, aircraft repair and overhaul, engine and component overhaul (including IFE), spare parts pooling, light engine leasing, painting, and cabin modifications.

It's crucial to provide team members with the ability to work well together. In addition, training can help teams to develop situational awareness because team members need to do the maintenance activities they have been educated on. Several relevant training initiatives have been effective in this field.

The airline scheduling process must consider the aircraft's maintenance schedule. Therefore, reduced airline operating costs may result from fewer flight delays through improved maintenance procedures.

Q: How will machine learning and robots shape the maintenance team's future at airports?

Eslam Al Fasatla: Robots might use an ultrasonic sensor, which allows for detailed assessment of the types of damage the aircraft has, and infrared thermography to examine and repair composite materials in the aeroplane. As a maintenance team, we can plan and detect damage, saving the airframe and power plant maintenance teams time when detecting damage. However, we will not be losing our jobs in any way. We may cooperate with machines to facilitate our daily tasks, but humans cannot be dispensed for maintenance, due to the sensitivity of the profession.

Many thanks Eslam Al Fasatla for these very interesting insights.