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Behind the Wings: Taking chances and making strides

Maintenance Quality Control Inspector Lystra Cupidore Julien took a leap of faith to try something new by entering the male-dominated industry of aircraft maintenance. She became an Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT) and in her first 10 years with Piedmont, she was the only female AMT in Philadelphia. Fourteen years after joining Piedmont, she has progressed in her career and inspires others to pursue the path she has paved.

“I have been asked many times why I chose to work in this industry instead of working behind a desk,” she shares. “This line of work is what I enjoy and it’s what I signed up for. I want my coworkers to view me as an equal, so I perform equal work.”

As a female AMT, Lystra has encountered some challenges along the way. “When I was Lead Mechanic, a new hire came up and pointed at my face and told me he was not taking orders from a woman. Thankfully, I have thick skin and there’s nothing anyone can do or say to make me feel like less of a person.”

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Lystra completed high school at age 16 and migrated to Philadelphia where she began college with a goal to become a child psychologist. After six months of study, she decided not to pursue that career and left college. She came across a newspaper advertisement for the Aviation Institute for Maintenance (AIM) and although she had flown many times before, had never considered a career in aviation. She was always curious about how airplanes fly, and her wheels started turning. Lystra took a tour of the school and was impressed. “I asked the tour guide about being a female in this industry and he said that if I liked solving problems and working with my hands, that this career might be a good fit for me,” she shares. She was intrigued and enrolled in the 18-month aircraft maintenance technician course that same day.  “I felt like I had nothing to lose so I decided to go for it.”

Lystra shares that she really enjoyed learning about aircraft mechanics and was in the top five of her graduating class. After graduation, she found that many airlines were hiring mechanics but were seeking experienced mechanics. Just out of school, she lacked any practical work experience and began searching for airlines whose requirements she met. She applied to Piedmont, interviewed, and was hired on the spot in April 2008. “I’m grateful that Piedmont took a chance on me,” says Lystra proudly. “I feel like I have proven myself; I turned wrenches for 10 years before being promoted to Lead Mechanic and then Quality Control Inspector.”

As a Quality Control Inspector, Lystra inspects the work completed by overnight mechanics to ensure it was completed correctly with no errors and the planes are ready for Right Start in the morning. During the day, she inspects repairs that are completed on the line.

She is often approached by agents on the ramp and in the terminal when they see her wearing a Maintenance safety vest.  “People ask me if I really work in Maintenance or am I just borrowing their vest,” she says with a smile. “I am often asked where I went to school and about the process of my becoming an AMT. People are interested in knowing how I got here and I’m happy to share it.” One day an aircraft cleaner sparked a conversation with her while she was inspecting an aircraft. She spoke with him about school and provided him with information. “I ran into him some time later and he was excited to share with me that after our conversation, he had decided to attend AMT school and was later hired by Piedmont as an aircraft maintenance technician. It felt good knowing that our conversation may have been a catalyst for him to pursue this career.”

When she isn’t inspecting Piedmont aircraft, she enjoys using her company travel benefits to travel all over the world and spending time with her husband and two sons.

Thank you Lystra, for all you do to keep our aircraft flying safe for our crew and passengers!

To help future candidates pursue a career in Aviation Maintenance, Piedmont Airlines recently launched the Tuition Payment program that helps remove the financial barriers to AMT school and provides employment after graduation. Interesting in learning more? Visit the Tuition Payment Program website here.

Behind the Wings is a Piedmont feature that highlights the accomplishments of the aviation professionals who make us Piedmont Proud inside and outside the airport. In honor of Women’s History Month, Piedmont is proud to recognize our team members and their contributions to the success of the airline and making a difference in their communities.