Women In Aviation - Suam Rivera

by Suam Rivera on Mar 11 2021

Hello, my name is Suam Rivera and I am an aircraft mechanic at L3Harris Sanford Flight Academy. This July will mark my 3rd year in the company. Before starting my aviation journey, I worked in the theme park industry as a character performer and attendant. I worked there for a total of 12 years. Sometime around 2015, I realized I could do better and wanted to change career. I felt like I had reached my potential there and wanted something more challenging and fulfilling. At that time, I had no idea what career path to pursue, but I was determined to make a change.

Around that same time my old pick-up truck, and my only form of transportation started experiencing issues. I could not afford to have a mechanic look at it, so I decided to tackle the problem myself. I searched online for videos and instructions on how to change the starter in my truck. Once I had a pretty good idea of how to do it, I just went for it! I struggled getting some of the bolts off so I asked a friend to help, but even he couldn’t get the bolt off. We worked on it until it got dark but to no avail. It just wouldn’t come out. After a good night's sleep, I went back to it even more determined and managed to get it off by myself. I installed the new starter and when I turned the ignition the truck started on the first try. When I heard the engine crank, I started laughing maniacally like a mad scientist reviving a dead machine. At that moment I realized that I wanted to work using my hands.

I still wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but it was a start. I didn’t want to work on cars and one day a friend of mine suggested aviation. At the time, I thought that would be a pretty cool career path. After looking into different schools near me, I found out that I could not afford to attend. Continuing my search eventually I stumbled upon an aircraft maintenance school that had financial aid. I enrolled in their 21-month program in April of 2016. I worked full time during the day and attended school at night. It was tough, but I made it through with a 4.0 GPA.

After graduation came perhaps, one of the biggest hurdles. In order to obtain my FAA Airframe and Powerplant license I had to pass 5 exams which included 3 written, an oral and a practical. In the beginning of 2018, I passed the last of my tests and in February 2018 obtained my A&P license. This was one of the proudest moments of my life. Once I got my license, I started job searching, which came with a few disappointments. The first few jobs I applied for didn’t lead to anything. I even went to Indiana, paying my own expenses, for the possibility of landing a job. Then I received a call to interview for, at the time, L3 Flight Academy. I was feeling pretty down but decided to go for the interview anyway. At the interview, I felt that for the first time someone saw my potential and was willing to take a chance on me. Which is something I am very grateful for and have strived since to meet their expectations. L3 became L3Harris last year and is a place I consider a home today. My coworkers treat me with respect and as their equal. I hope to continue learning and maintaining our aircrafts to the highest standards of safety for our pilots.

As for the future, I plan to pursue an Inspection Authorization rating. I will continue to work hard and endeavor to further advance my career in this field. Aviation is definitely an amazing field to work in and any woman that is a part of it should be proud of their achievements. I would also like to say thank you, to all the women that came before me and laid the groundwork for me to be here today.