Merleen Thomas, Inspirational Airline Engineer
‘One of the most satisfying things about my job is seeing an aircraft that you inspected take off and just seeing it fly in the air,’ Merleen Thomas, Air New Zealand aircraft engineer, told the Fiji Times. Merleen is one of only four female certified aircraft engineers working for Air New Zealand. And, at 29, she is also the youngest. Merleen admits that her work ‘is very stressful. There is always a lot of pressure to make the right decisions because every choice means life or death. I do feel the pressure at times but I work with some of the best in the country and they are always there to help me,’ she told the Times. ‘We hate having to ground aircraft…but…we have to make that call for the safety of passengers and flight crew. It’s a tough call but an absolute necessity,’ she said. Merleen started with Air New Zealand in 2007, after four years of aviation engineering studies at the Air New Zealand Aviation Institute. In 2009, she obtained her engineering license and started work with Air New Zealand in Auckland. Merleen grew up just outside of Suva, in a poor family. She remembers not having enough food and always having to share things, rooms and clothes, with family and relatives. ‘But that did not matter because what we lacked in earthly things, we made up with love, kindness and happiness,’ she told the Times. Her parents’ struggles inspired Merleen to work hard. She wanted to be a pilot, but that was financially impossible. So, on finishing school, she applied for an aircraft engineering scholarship. Merleen told the Times that she hasn’t given up on her flying dream.‘ I’ve always had a fascination with airplanes. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamt of one day flying an aircraft.’ Right now though, she’s happy where she is. ‘This is where I want to be. I do have other dreams apart from this and maybe somewhere down the road I will pursue them but right now, this is something that I really love doing,’ she told the Times. Her father, who was main mentor and motivator, recently passed away. ‘I know he’s gone but his teachings are still with me. I could not think of a better way to honour his memory than to keep achieving my dreams,’ Merleen said.