By Andrea Leinfelder Houston Chronicle
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Chix Fix" is a United Airlines team of six female technicians who will compete in the annual Aerospace Maintenance Competition held April 8 through April 11 in Atlanta.
Katrina Oyer and Yolanda Gong were conscious of the time as Oyer clutched a speedhandle and Gong grasped a screwdriver. They quickly removed the screws securing an oval plate to the United Airlines' plane wing.
It revealed the fuel tank, where they simulated using a meter to read the parts per million of oxygen to fuel vapors. That would determine if it was safe to enter the tank.
The stopwatch kept ticking. Time. Accuracy. Speed.
Oyer and Gong are part of Chix Fix, a United Airlines team of six female technicians who will compete in the annual Aerospace Maintenance Competition held April 8 through April 11 in Atlanta. United says it is the only all-female team that will compete.
The women come from across the country. The timed events are a fun way to test their skills. And, more importantly, they're a way to promote the job to other women.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, fewer than 3 percent of aircraft mechanics are women. United Airlines has 947 aircraft technicians in Houston, and just 15 of them are women.
"I am a role model for other women in this business," said Chix Fix team member Zoe Wainwright. "And I take that seriously because it's a great job, and I want young girls and young women to know that they can do it, too."
Last year, Chix Fix won the Airbus CAT III event, where a technician tests the systems used to land a plane when visibility is challenged.
They want more wins this year, so they came to Houston to practice. Oyer and Gong were running through the fuel tank challenge.
This event does not require them to actually enter the tank -- like they would during normal repairs -- but instead has them skip to the end tasks. Check that no tools were left in the fuel tank. Check the seal and set the panel back into the wing. Torque the screws to a specific tightness and in a specific pattern, the latter similar to the star pattern used when changing a car tire.
They turned the power back onto the plane -- and time.
"It's just exhilarating," Gong said. "It's something else when you get to work with a teammate, and you just are in sync with another person, with another human being. There's no words to describe it."