A helicopter mechanic and ambassador for the industry, Faith Ortega got her mechanical start as a kid , helping her father, an auto mechanic, around his shop. Knowing she wanted to work with her hands in her career, a friend’s mother who worked for American Airlines pointed her towards aviation.
“[She said] you should really, really consider becoming an A&P mechanic. And so, I toured a couple schools near where I lived, one of them being Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. And after completing the tour, I was just in complete awe,” Ortega recounts.
Today, Ortega is not only a helicopter mechanic with Air Evac Lifeteam, she also dedicates much of her time to promoting the industry and inspiring the next generation of aviation professionals. Ortega volunteers quite a bit of her time at the Gateway Youth Aeronautical Foundation, which is based out of Creve Coeure airport in St. Louis.
“They have an airworthy helicopter that they use to inspire young kids to get into aviation. So, they're building up the program right now , and before we know it, we'll be flying it into STEM events in high school to get kids interested in aviation,” she said.
Ortega also started the How to Helicopter social media pages, where she promotes the industry and shares highlights from the work she does.
“I started the social media pages in hope to inspire young people to get into aviation, or at least to try and get their feet wet. You don't have to have a background in aviation to pursue a career in it. I didn't. And I ended up loving it. And so that has led to some really cool opportunities. One of them being I am a HAI brand ambassador, so every year I get to go to the HAI Heli Expo and whatever city it's being held in, represent them, which has been so much fun,” she said.
Ortega said the industry is seeing a significant shift right now as people exit it and there being too few people to replace them, which is why she’s working hard to get the next generation involved. She said aviation has an undeniable wow factor that hooks people, and it’s her hope that when kids see that and see they can be a part of it, that will turn the tide.
“I think lifting these kids up and giving them the tools that they need to make that career choice for themself and see that it is a really rewarding career choice. And I'm hoping that other people, other companies start catching on and larger entities that can afford to give back will start to do so and really see that if they invest the time and the money in the kids, that it's going to pay off for everybody in the long run in the future. So that's my biggest hope for success for our industry,” Ortega said.