As part of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting and recognizing employees across the system. Here is what a few had to say about the work they are doing and how it is continuing to pave the way for more women in the aviation industry.
Viola Henderson – Mechanic, DTW
Being an A&P mechanic is one of Viola Henderson’s biggest accomplishments. Growing up in Detroit, Viola lived down the street from a small airport and her love for aviation started at a very young age. The constant sound of airplanes only piqued Viola’s fascination. She would often ask her parents to walk down the block so she could get a closer look.
“I still remember the first day I walked down there. A prop plane was waiting to take off,” said Viola. “There I was, a small kid with her face pressed up against the fence. I knew then that I wanted to be around airplanes every day of my life and I was going to do everything in my power to make it happen.”
Viola attended Wayne State University and changed her major four times because nothing made her happy. She sought advice about what to do to be happy and successful, and was continually asked, “What makes you happy?” or “What do you like to do?”.
“My answer was always about airplanes, but I thought, ‘I’m a girl. I’m not going to be able to work with or around them,’” said Viola.
She then went to culinary school, but after 13 months there, knew that it still wasn’t the path for her. Finally, Viola began chasing her aviation dreams. She found a cleaning job at the airport and during that time was able to talk with aircraft mechanics. After a year and a half of cleaning aircraft toilets, she got her first job for an airline.
While working the front counter, she noticed a woman checking in was wearing an FAA badge. As she talked to her, she learned that the woman was also an aircraft mechanic. She told Viola to apply at a local aviation school and, as soon as the woman left, Viola found one, enrolled, and started the next week.
At the end of 2021, Viola graduated and received her A&P license.
“I kept telling myself that no one was going to stop me!” said Viola. “I had a lot of female support. Female instructors would tell me that it was not going to be easy in a male-dominated field, and they were right.”
After several experiences, Viola applied for a maintenance technician job at SkyWest. A few weeks later, she had her interview with her current manager, Chris Clem, who made her decision to choose SkyWest even easier.
“The help and openness SkyWest has given me has made me believe I made the right decision,” said Viola. “The other mechanics help me and answer my questions. And Chris always makes sure I have what I need to succeed.”
Viola recently finished her borescope inspection and is excited about her career at SkyWest.
“My advice to other women out there is don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to speak up and be heard, because you can do it just like I did!”
Allison Carroll – Dispatcher, HDQ
Allison Carroll started at SkyWest in 2013 and worked in various roles before becoming a dispatcher about a year ago.
When asked about her experience as a female dispatcher, Allison said, “We all have the same qualifications and the same goal, and I’m glad I can offer my professional perspective and viewpoint on situations.”
Women’s History Month stands out to Allison because it showcases how she is able to do what she does every day.
“It wasn’t long ago that women weren’t able to simply work for income or work under their own name,” said Allison. “I can do both.”
Allison enjoys seeing SkyWest’s support of women and the growing number of women who are working in every department throughout the company.
“It has come a long way, but I would love to see even more balance in the aviation industry,” said Allison.
Veronica Ortega – Mechanic III, MKE
When Veronica Ortega looked up information about becoming an aviation mechanic online, almost all the information materials depicted male technicians. Thankfully, that didn’t stop her. She quickly learned that anyone could do it and has worked hard to prove that there is a place for females in the field. Joining the ranks of other A&P mechanics felt like a whole new world to Veronica.
“I didn’t realize how big aviation was,” said Veronica. “But at SkyWest, I felt like I belonged.”
Reflecting on Women’s History Month, Veronica’s says her goal is to celebrate strong women who wanted to break out of the gender norms they were placed in.
“Women can do anything. We are strong!” said Veronica. “We can fix aircraft, fly aircraft, or anything else we set our minds to. No one can say we can’t; we can!”
During her time at SkyWest, Veronica has had many great A&P mechanics as role models – both men and women. All of them have taught her how to be a better aircraft mechanic.
“I did not come from a mechanical background, but I wanted to learn,” said Veronica. “If you are willing to learn and work hard, the SkyWest family will help you. Shout out to all the great mechanics in MKE!”