ENGINEER LEVEL: EXPERT

Aerospace is an industry many of us could only dream of working in, but for 24-year-old Louisa Lee it’s a reality. This Brisbane-born engineer works on some of the most well-known aircraft in the sky, including the F/A-18F Super Hornet. We sat down with Louisa for a chat about her epic job…

Tell us about yourself…
I studied for six years to achieve a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical and Aerospace) and a Bachelor of Science (Mathematics). I have always had an inquisitive mind for solving problems and figuring out how things worked. I think that is what drives my passion for engineering.

How did you become involved with aviation engineering?
In my second year of university I decided that aerospace was the most exciting engineering stream. It’s about applying mechanical engineering skills and principles to new and complex systems. It is an industry that is always pushing the boundaries in technology to go faster and further. I joined Boeing through the Boeing Defence Australia paid Summer Vacation Student program over the 2014-2015 Christmas holidays and worked casually as a student there until I finished my studies and went on to join Boeing Defence Australia full-time when I graduated. The skills I developed at university and as a student at Boeing led me to work on what I consider to be the coolest project of them all – the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler sustainment program.

What type of aircraft do you work on?
I am a Boeing Graduate Mechanical/Structural Engineer within the Air Combat and Electronic Attack sustainment program. This program provides engineering, maintenance, logistics, operations support, and weapon system integration services for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fleet of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets and 12 EA-18G Growlers. The EA-18G Growler is an airborne electronic attack aircraft capable of providing force level electronic warfare support by disrupting, deceiving or denying a broad range of military electronic systems, including radars and communications. The F/A-18F Super Hornet is a twin-engine, supersonic, all weather multi-role jet fighter that is capable of landing and taking off from an aircraft carrier.

What’s an average day on the job like for you?
Our team is based at RAAF Base Amberley. No two days are the same – I could be down in the hangar doing an aircraft component inspection or at my computer drafting a modification for maintainers to incorporate. My main focus is providing technical engineering support to ensure aircraft availability and fleet readiness.

Working on planes is a huge responsibility, are you ever worried about stuffing up?
Boeing takes quality very seriously and with good reason – lives often depend on the products and services we produce and maintain. First time quality is at the top of my list of priorities. If I make a misstep, there are rigorous review and approval cycles that will swiftly pick up on it and course correct before my work is released.

What’s the coolest part of your job?
Working on an air base means I get to see amazing aircraft every day. You never get over the roaring sound of a Super Hornet fly-over or the powerful grace of a C-17A Globemaster launching into the sky. To be able to reach out and touch an F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, C-17A Globemaster, or an E-7A Wedgetail at work puts me up there as having one of the coolest jobs in the world.

Any future work goals?
I do share in the dream of many engineers who want to go into space. I will settle for being involved in a program that sends something into space – which is totally achievable working at a global company like Boeing. Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner spacecraft is being developed in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This will transport humans to travel into low-Earth orbit.

What would you say to others wanting to get into this very unique field?
I would say get involved! Aerospace is such a huge industry with many exciting career paths. Boeing is a company of dreamers and problem-solvers – every day we’re looking at ways to build something better, smarter and more amazing. If you need any motivation, go to an air show or a military open-day – seeing the cool aircraft will get you psyched!

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