September 2018
Rise and shine

Aircraft maintenance is an industry traditionally dominated by men. Yet for twin sisters Joe and Joann Yuen, working as Senior Aircraft Maintenance Mechanics at HAECO Hong Kong has enabled them to thrive in their chosen careers. Swire News joins them to learn about the challenges and successes they have encountered along the way to achieving their dreams.

Joe (right) and Joann
Joe (right) and Joann

What sparked your interest in engineering?

Joe: For both of us, our shared interest grew during childhood, when we watched and helped our father with his carpentry projects. We also had the chance to assist our uncle with some simple electrical network installations. Our two elder sisters worked in offices, but for us, such a prospect didn't appeal. We are both active and didn't want to have a career where we worked in the same spot every day. After graduating from the Youth College of Vocational Training Council in 2008, we learned that HAECO Hong Kong was recruiting aircraft maintenance mechanic trainees. It sounded like a challenge we wanted to embrace, so we signed up for their trainee scheme.

What are the requirements for joining the scheme? Do they differ according to gender?

Joann: The basic requirements are the same for men and women – you qualify as long as you hold an HKDSE* certificate. Of course, you also have an advantage if you possess relevant knowledge and experience. As for personality, aircraft maintenance mechanics must be willing to face challenges, and possess a serious and responsible attitude.
*HKDSE = Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education

How do you think being twins has helped you, both with the training and the job itself?

Both: As twin sisters, we share similar interests and are used to doing everything together. During the one-year programme, we worked together on classroom training at Tseung Kwan O, participating in workshops and on-the-job training with different departments. After passing our exams, the company saw how closely we supported each other and assigned us both to Airframe Services. Joe is in charge of landing gear and Joann services engines.

Joe – the elder twin
Joe – the elder twin

What other advantages do you gain from being sisters who both work at HAECO?

Joe: Joann and I have responsibilities in different areas – with Joann’s being engines and mine landing gear – but we like to swap advice and share knowledge about repair and maintenance when we are at home. For example, my sister will sometimes help me by giving me information about different engine types. This helps with my own assignments and fills any knowledge gaps.

Joann: We actually joined the company on the very same day, and we began the learning process together from that moment. It gave us the opportunity to encourage one another at every stage.

What are the struggles and advantages women face when working in a male-dominated field?

Joann: Some women may not be as physically strong as some men, so we usually have to put ten times the effort into learning and working just to prove we can handle aircraft maintenance tasks. Now, I can remove and carry turbine blades from engines on my own. My mentors were all quite shocked to witness this achievement.

Joe: Women pay more attention to detail and can communicate better, which complements our male colleagues' physical abilities. Aircraft maintenance requires fitness and is predominantly led by men, which is why, in the past, many older mechanics didn't think women would be able to do the job. For the past decade, I have delivered parts wherever they are required – including aircraft wheels as tall as me – come rain or shine. After working together with men for a while, their views have changed and they respect our abilities.

As twins who work in the same environment, are there any memorable stories you can share?

Joann: While we belong in different teams and don't necessarily work on the same aircraft at the same time, our colleagues sometimes find it hard to tell us apart. Once, we were assigned to work on the same aircraft and I was checking and maintaining the engine while my sister was working on the landing gear. My supervisor came to check my progress and – mistaking my sister for me – was surprised that I was working on the landing gear. But he was even more confused when I spoke to him from behind. It was an amusing situation.

Joann – the younger twin
Joann – the younger twin

Which aspect of the job gives you the most satisfaction?

Joe: Every time our team delivers on time or ahead of schedule, and we watch the aircraft take off safely, I feel immense pride. Changing landing gear for Boeing 747 aircraft is also a challenging and rewarding task. Each Boeing 747 has five sets of landing gear, and our team once worked day and night to change all five sets in three days. The customer was delighted, which gave us a sense of achievement.

Joann: Hundreds of lives depend on aircraft maintenance mechanics, so we all carry significant responsibility. The team spirit and experience passed on to every task is the most valuable of all.
Swire News 2018 September Issue
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