Female mechanics are quite rare in the aviation sector. Lisa Kzywinski is not only a fully qualified aviation mechanic, but she is also the subject of a romantic story that owes this industry.
Beginning her career as a flight attendant, Lisa would never have met her husband Mark if she had not discovered a passion for aircraft maintenance.
From flight attendant to aircraft mechanic
Lisa’s career in aircraft maintenance began eight years ago when she worked at a commercial airline as an experienced flight attendant. But during a repatriation flight from Canada to the Bahamas, which was going to pick up passengers after the plane crash, Lisa became interested in the technical aspects of aviation. Lisa spoke with the rescue crew, in particular the airline mechanics who were present at the scene, and was immediately fascinated by the sector.
She says: “I wanted to learn more about the profession, and since I worked in the same company, on weekends I went to the hangar and went to the mechanics to see what a day in the life of an aircraft mechanic.”
It was in the aircraft maintenance hangar that Lisa first met Mark. In the end, a strong friendship developed between them.
“After I first met him in the hangar, we became friends,” recalls Lisa. “I started taking online courses and then realized I could be a flight attendant and go to aeronautical school [because] I was able to shift my schedule. So I ended up going to school to become a mechanic when I was still a flight attendant. ”
Mark’s journey into the aviation industry is a slightly different story. Initially, he wanted to become a boat mechanic. However, he decided to move to a higher-paying sector and became an aviation mechanic, joining an airline where Lisa was already working as a member of the onboard crew.
When Mark was qualified to repair certain types of commercial aircraft, Lisa studied diligently to earn a degree. The choice to become an airline mechanic is an unusual choice for women in Canada, where only 4% of technicians are women. However, Lisa has become one of the few female mechanics to help actively change the industry.
The former flight attendant took two years to obtain the necessary qualifications to repair Airbus A319, A320 and A321 aircraft, the same type of aircraft that Mark had serviced for several years.
Over time, Lisa and Mark’s friendship grew into a relationship.
Working for the same major Canadian airline, both technicians enjoyed the experience of getting a broken plane in a hangar, making necessary repairs, and then re-observing the plane’s takeoff. Nearly a decade spent repairing jet engines and parts will do nothing to stifle their enthusiasm for the job.
Supporting each other through a pandemic
When Lisa worked in the hangar, she faced a gender imbalance in aircraft maintenance. For Lisa, the stereotype that women don’t make good mechanics still prevails in the sector. Although she has the same qualifications as her colleagues, she may still feel unnoticed.
“Some people still see the difference in gender,” Lisa points out. “For example, if someone asked a question [and] if my husband and I have been taught the same thing and we are both equally qualified, they will always ask him this question, even if I stand next to him, which seems strange to me. People definitely were [who] would be part of the “boys’ club” and would not include me or would not ask for my help. ”
But the problems of gender inequality did not stop Lisa, and she and Mark continued to improve their skills.
However, a new challenge soon emerged in the form of the global health crisis.
Already married and living together in Southern Ontario, Mark and Lisa worked for the same airline on seasonal contracts. This gave the husbands more flexibility, which meant they could focus on aircraft maintenance during the busy winter season, earning enough money to relax in the summer. But when struck by COVID-19, it completely changed their professional lives.
In the early stages of the pandemic, the couple lost their jobs at the airline. While the financial support provided by the Government of Canada was enough to pay the bills, the couple was unable to continue living as it was before the pandemic. Providing unconditional support to each other until she was lucky, Mark and Lisa looked for another source of income.
Aviation clothing and new beginnings
Yes, the Canadian couple came up with the idea of producing aviation-themed clothes.
Initially, Lisa and Mark designed several T-shirts with the Ontario International Airport code for personal use, but the couple saw an opportunity for new business and set up a clothing company, Phelix & Co. Soon Lisa and Mark attracted the attention of buyers and the couple decided to print more promotions.
Lisa says: “At first we invested about $ 3,000 in the necessary equipment to produce T-shirts with the airport code and brought some to market to see what would happen. Surprisingly, we were sold out in a day because people liked it. But in fact we did not expect such demand.
“I used to write down orders on a piece of paper and cross them out for each customer, but then it came to the point that it no longer works. We needed to sort out the address and how many people paid for shipping, so I created a website that I had never done before. I taught myself that this is not rocketry, but it’s still something I’ve never done. ”
She adds: “We made our first website with photos taken by me. As we moved slowly, we learned to use Photoshop so we could take good quality pictures. ”
The aviation community in Canada, although quite small, is very supportive. Lisa says this cohesive group has helped expand their business.
Let’s start with the fact that all the T-shirts were black, but now at Phelix and Co. there are a variety of colorful clothing for aviation enthusiasts, including recycled aviation leather wallets, children’s clothing, hoodies, round pants, sweatpants and even aviation-themed socks.
Although growing a business is never easy, especially during a pandemic, the couple supports each other’s ideas and shares responsibilities. Lisa focuses on business leadership, accounting and advertising, while Mark is more creative and works in product development and design.
Lisa says, “When Mark started drawing and creating new designs, he liked it. He just wakes up and himself comes up with a bunch of new ideas. Of course, he has a lot of creativity. ”
The couple is now trying to branch out and attract new customers by continuing to introduce recycled leather products to raise awareness of environmental issues. Phelix and Co. has received 75% return on its initial investment, which Mark and Lisa have already reinvested in their growing business. There is also talk of setting up a physical store at Toronto Pearson Airport as soon as airlines resume air travel.
However, despite the success of Mark and Lisa’s new case, the couple’s team has not lost their passion for aircraft maintenance. After the pandemic, the shortage of aircraft maintenance specialists will be greater than before. So both mechanics are keeping their fingers crossed for recovery.
https://www.aerotime.aero/authors/gabriele/30207-valentines-day-story-of-mark-and-lisa from aircraft maintenance to wedding bells