The Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) team sat down with Lindsey Sander, Certification Engineer at Envoy Aerospace LLC., as part of our Women in the Aviation series.
This series of interviews aims to shine a spotlight on notable women in the industry and the diverse career opportunities in the sector.
She believes that it’s vital for the industry to attract and nurture the next generation of aviation professionals if it’s to combat a ‘knowledge drain’.
Read on to find out how she carved her own career path and her views on being a woman in the business.
Lindsey, How long have you worked in the aviation industry?
“I have actively worked in the aviation industry for almost three years as a certification engineer; however, both my parents worked in aviation, so I feel as though I’ve been in the industry my whole life.”
How did you get into the industry?
“I grew up with two parents working in aviation, one of which is an FAA designee. Often my parents would come home from work and discuss their workdays with each other. As a kid, I’ll admit that those conversations were rather boring. However, once I learned to speak the aviation language, I became fascinated with their work.
Going into college, I knew that I ultimately wanted to pursue a career in the aviation industry, so I majored in electrical engineering and focused my research on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) (aka drones).
“The passenger experience has been developed more than any other aspect of air travel in the last 25 years.”
I got my first real taste of the aviation industry during the summer of my senior year in college when I interned with the engineering department of an FAA Part 145 Repair Station (West Star Aviation, East Alton, IL). That internship confirmed my passion for the industry. In 2017, I started my current job with Envoy Aerospace (FAA STC ODA) as a Certification Engineer and I have been working in the business for nearly 3 years now.”
As a woman, how do you find working in such a male-dominated industry?
“I am fortunate that the colleagues I work with daily do not focus on gender, but rather on merit. This is mostly true even for the new people I meet. However, every now and then, when I first meet a new face, I perceive a hint of scepticism in my capabilities, maybe because I am a woman or maybe because I am young; however, that is typically short-lived once I’m able to show my competency.”
Have you encountered any gender discrimination in your career?
“As far as I can tell, I have not encountered “gender” discrimination. There have been some encounters where I detected a hint of scepticism in my abilities, but I would guess that is related to my age and perceived inexperience rather than being a woman. To me, these encounters are opportunities to show my competency.”
As a female senior leader, why do you think it’s important for companies to address the gender gap?
“I am fortunate enough not to have been exposed to a gender gap, however, I do acknowledge that such a gap exists. To remedy this, I think it is important for companies to focus on hiring and promoting qualified individuals. If technical competency becomes the hiring and promoting focus, then the gender gap should take care of itself.”
What do you believe has been the key to your success?
“I believe the keys to my success are twofold: First, listening to and interacting with the customer, and second my work ethic to grow my technical skills in the ever-changing aviation world. I am passionate about my job and truly enjoy being on the front line with my customers.
“I feel as though the aviation community has come a long way in the last 20 years.”
And by continuously enhancing my technical competency, I am not only able to provide my customers with the most current knowledge, but also extinguish any doubt regarding my technical incompetency because I am a woman.”
What characteristics do you believe women need to survive in the aviation industry?
“There are two characteristics I find to be most valuable: a strong work ethic and solid communication skills. I often surprise new male co-workers when I’m able to intelligently discuss the technical aspects of the project.
Likewise, they don’t expect me to crawl into the equipment racks and wheel wells, but I do because it’s part of my job. A strong work ethic and good communication skills will go a long way in proving technical competency.”
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to women succeeding in the workplace?
“As a young engineer, I have been extremely fortunate in that I’ve not faced many obstacles in the workplace related to gender bias. I’ve certainly heard a few stories from my more seasoned female colleagues about their own experiences when they first entered the industry.
“Getting the younger generation involved and trained is a key challenge for the aviation industry.”
However, I feel as though the aviation community has come a long way in the last 20 years. It seems that there is very little gender bias anymore which makes me proud to be involved in the sector.”
What would you say has been your career highlight to date?
“I led an STC project from cradle to grave that installed an ADS-B Out system on a fleet of Boeing 737-400 Series aircraft. I wore many hats on the project, from creating some of the engineering drawings to managing the FAA certification effort, to providing hands-on engineering support for the prototype installation (including on-aircraft testing and troubleshooting), to finally coordinating the STC issuance. It was a long and arduous project involving overseas travel, but it was completed successfully, ahead of schedule and our customer was very happy.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
“My favourite school teacher once told me, “Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy.” The aviation industry can be very demanding and stressful at times, especially during AOG (aircraft on ground) situations. Most of the time I enjoy the challenge of that intense pressure; however, occasionally it can be overwhelming. During those moments, I often repeat that quote over and over in my head to keep myself sane and continue to enjoy the rush.”
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the aviation industry?
“Getting the younger generation involved and trained is a key challenge for the aviation industry. A large portion of this industry’s workforce is in the back half of their careers looking towards retirement. The industry is facing a significant knowledge drain if the next generation doesn’t step up.
It is important to get ahead of this knowledge drain and recruit motivated young individuals now, so they have as much time as possible to train-up. One day, these young individuals will shape the future of the aviation industry.”
What do you believe has been the biggest development in air travel over the past 25 years?
“In my opinion, the passenger experience has been developed more than any other aspect of air travel in the last 25 years. In order to stay competitive, operators and lessors have focused their attention on modifying aircraft to provide the best possible passenger experience.
These types of modifications include cabin re-configurations, installation of InFlight Entertainment (IFE) systems including Wi-Fi connectivity, In-Seat Power Supply (ISPS) installations, Transmitting Personal Electronic Devices (TPED) testing, etc. With new technologies coming to the market daily, I don’t see this focus on the passenger experience slowing down any time soon.”
If you could change one thing in the aviation industry, what would it be?
“I would encourage OAMs and STC providers to work together to educate the aviation community on the value of the STC. OAMs have the perception of being the highest quality, but most expensive. STCs are often viewed at the other end of the spectrum.
“Once I learned to speak the aviation language, I became fascinated.”
However, if developed correctly by STC providers committed to a high level of quality, the STC can be a viable alternative to an OAM Service Bulletin (SB). STCs will never be able to completely replace OAM SBs, but there is a time and place for both approval mechanisms.”
Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in the workplace and why?
“The three Envoy Aerospace executive partners (Adrian Honer, Marilyn Feigl and Mark Haycock) have collectively been my biggest advocates and mentors in the workplace. Adrian, Marilyn and Mark are all FAA DERs and FAA ODA Engineering Unit Members (UMs). Mark is also an FAA DAR, Conformity UM and Flight Test Pilot UM. They are walking encyclopaedias on the aviation industry.
Beyond their technical ability, they truly care about their employees and customers on a personal level. They take time out of their busy schedules not only to answer your immediate questions but the next four follow-up questions too. They expect excellence and will help you achieve it. I feel very fortunate to have them as my advocates/mentors.”
About Lindsey Sander
Lindsey started her aviation career as an intern with West Star Aviation in the summer of 2014 where she assisted in the development of both design and substantiation data for several STC projects. After graduating with her BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee-Martin, Lindsey began her career in the nuclear industry with Atkins Nuclear Solutions.
While at Atkins, Lindsey gained valuable industry experience working simultaneously as the Lead Electrical Engineer and Project Manager. After two years in the nuclear industry, she decided to follow her passion and transfer back into the aviation industry; specifically, aircraft certification. She started working with Envoy Aerospace in June 2017 as a Certification Engineer.