Patricia J. Hange is the first and only woman (so far) fully qualified to have received the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award. Hange was nominated by the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM), and received the award in 2000.
Hange’s father was in the National Guard so she was around aircraft at an early age. “I’ve been around airplanes all my life,” says Hange. “I guess I was born interested.”
After World War II she got a job at the local airport in Willoughby, OH, getting her foot in the aircraft maintenance industry. “Well I started out as a lineboy fueling airplanes. I helped the mechanics and eventually I got to be more help than the mechanics.”
Hange then worked at a factory for 10 years as an inspector on aircraft parts for Thompson Products, now Thompson Ramo Wooldridge. And she kept her interest in maintenance alive by rebuilding a Taylorcraft.
Talking to coworkers she heard about a glider chapter that they were going to start. “I didn’t like gliders, I had a ‘real’ airplane. But they needed so many people to make it happen so I joined their club. ‘OK,’ I said, ‘I’ve joined — now leave me alone.’”
Training and Certification
“I was a professional student pilot and decided I’d better finish up,” says Hange. It was during this time that she met Harriet Hamilton who became her future business partner.
Hange passed the Airframe written test in the 1950s and decided to finish it up in 1964 before the government declared her earlier achievements obsolete if not completed. She got her Powerplant in 1974. “I held off on that because I kept saying I didn’t know anything about jets. Then after a while I couldn’t get IAs to come exactly when I wanted them so I finished up the IA. I just sort of plod on.”
Hamilton instructed Hange for her commercial airplane rating. And afterward they headed to New York for glider training and wound up purchasing a new Schweizer 2-22. So much for only liking “real” airplanes. She and Hamilton were charter members of the Cleveland Soaring Society.
Hange and Hamilton opened the Lenox Flight School in 1962 and moved operations to the Arcadia Airport, Bartow, FL, in 1964. Hange was the glider instructor and mechanic and Hamilton was the power instructor and copilot.
“I was back into aviation, working on aircraft, flying them, and teaching the people in Cleveland to fly gliders. Then we came to Florida. I still work on them. That’s my big joy — working on aircraft.
“We closed down the flight school last August. My partner had quit flying quite a few years before that and I was getting worn out. It probably worked out well as she passed away in November.”
Hange is still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Charlie. “It wiped me out and it wiped out the flight school pretty bad,” says Hange. “I’m too old for hurricanes.” She recently moved into a new house and still has to go through everything to see what’s salvageable. Hange ended up with two gliders. “I just finished rebuilding one of them and sold it.”
We asked Hange if she would recommend aircraft maintenance as a career. “If you love the work and don’t need money, do it. I guess only the pilots and the people who buy the airplanes are the rich ones. If you love it, do it. I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”
While she says she’s old and doesn’t remember things, she’s looking forward to having the time available to travel and attend industry shows, still showing her interest in the industry.