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Pam Ashton’s Journey in Aviation

March 8th to the 14th is Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, a global aviation awareness week observed to mark the anniversary of the world’s first female pilot license. The week is a call to address gender imbalance in the air and space industry. Here at Babcock, we are celebrating it by recognizing some of the talented women that work in our aviation sector.

We sat down with Pam Ashton, Material and Logistics Coordinator, who sources parts and services for aircraft maintenance, supporting our aerial firefighting operations in the Province of Manitoba.

Q: What is your professional background? 

PA: I spent 17 years working in the corrections and social services fields. After running a treatment foster home for the last 3 years of my career I decided it was time for  a new and different career direction. It turned out that this was not that easy, as I was a single mom and it was a leap of faith. I eventually secured  a job working at a Harley Davidson dealership where I was given opportunities to work in various departments, and develop a number of new interests and skills. I eventually ended up working on the parts counter where I discovered I had a unique talent for parts books and numbers. After a few years at Harley Davidson, I applied for a stores room position with a small airline and that was the beginning of my career in Aviation.

Q: What attracted you to a career in aviation? 

PA: I come from an aviation family. My grandfather flew in WW1 and when he returned to Canada he flew the air mail. Along with a partner, he started an airline in the 30’s that eventually amalgamated into two different airlines, the last being Transair Ltd –  the first passenger airline to the north that had a female cabin crew!

Before I actually got my first job in aviation I was in university taking Business Management and Public Relations. I chose my job placement at the Aviation Museum where I did a paper on my grandfather’s aviation career. I spent every Wednesday at the museum going upstairs for lunch with the librarians to listen to their stories about working in aviation. I have always been fascinated with the history of aviation. When I landed my first aviation job, it felt right and somewhere that I belonged.

Q: Can you describe your role within Babcock? 

PA: I am a material and logistics coordinator, I am responsible for sourcing parts and services for the aircraft maintenance. I create the purchase orders for parts and services required to keep the planes flying safely.

During the summer months when the air tankers are out on base fighting wildfires, I am the person responsible for aircraft on the ground (AOG). When a plane is grounded, I get the call and find the parts and services through either the stores room or our suppliers and then I figure out how to get these out to the operating bases as quickly as possible.

Q: What is your favorite part of the job?

PA: I have a couple of favorite parts, I just love being around the planes. I love watching them take off from the base and land, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity of working with the wildfire program.

I also love the rush of finding and getting a part to the operating base when the plane is AOG. It’s a rush I can’t explain, it’s high pace and I love it.

As well, I love the team of people I get to work with.

Q: During Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, what is one piece of advice you would give to young women just starting out in their careers in aviation? 

PA: If you are passionate about airplanes then follow your heart if it’s meant for Aviation. Don’t let anyone discourage you from doing what you love. There will be highs and lows along the way but that is part of the fun!

Q: What motivates you?

PA: What motivates me is wanting to do a good job. I have people relying on me every day and that is what gets me out of bed in the morning. I take pride in knowing that my position always makes a difference to the people I work with as well as the people and communities that we provide essential services to. I am a piece of a puzzle that is working within a team and I take my responsibilities seriously.

Q: What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a career in aviation? 

PA: Look for career days in Aviation or Women in Aviation groups. Go to air shows. Talk to people in the industry. Explore all facets of aviation jobs, as there are many. Then go for it!