This month is Women’s History Month, an annual month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. Aireon would like to honor the achievements of some of the great women at Aireon and look-ahead at the opportunities that await future generations. We’ve asked a handful of women at Aireon a few questions about their roles working in aviation, a primarily male-dominated industry. For our second post, we sat down with Sinead McCloskey, Aireon’s Director of Safety and Service Operations.
Sinead McCloskey, Director of Safety and Service Operations
What led you to being an expert in aviation safety?
WOW! Expert? – I’m not sure that’s how I would describe myself as I think I’m still learning!
I started my career in Air Traffic Control (ATC) 32 and-a-bit years ago so I suppose if expertise was counted in years, I’m ancient 😊. I always had an interest in aviation and started out studying aeronautical engineering before making the switch to train as an Air Traffic Controller, and I never looked back. In this picture, I am instructing the student on my left in the Tower at Belfast International Airport. During my time here, there was a high-profile helicopter crash, and I was caught up in the Fatal Accident Inquiry which followed. There is nothing like being sworn in and questioned in a court room to focus the mind and force you to start asking questions of yourself and your organization. This was right at the start of my aviation journey which later took me to various airports and locations in the UK and Dubai, UAE, picking up various ATC qualifications, including ATS Inspector, Accident Investigator and a Master’s degree in Aviation Safety along the way. In truth, I’ve loved every minute of it, ATC is still one of the best jobs in the world (in my humble opinion) and certainly very rewarding. Aviation in general is one of the ‘safest’ industries in the world and, excuse the pun, that is no accident! It is an industry which focuses on early threat identification and management of risk, and the realization that things have to be done right the first time around as there are very few second chances.
What inspires you and why?
I’m always inspired by those who make a real difference for the good of others and knowing that I really can make a difference and improve safety, is what drives me. Also, I feel very strongly about always doing the right thing, because it’s the right thing to do – not because someone else says you should. I think my upbringing in Belfast during a period subjected to political turmoil and sectarian violence bred a ferocious tenacity in me to not be kept back. I’m always the one cheering on the underdog, shouting for the horse last out of the stalls, to come from behind and win the race against all the odds! (My Grandfather owned a betting shop – might be where that comes from 😊)
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a woman starting a career in aviation?
Be yourself always. Cheer on the other women around you and support each other. Show humility and respect, but don’t be a door mat.
Believe in yourself and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Women possess valuable skills that are essential for a career in aviation – some men will never possess them. In many ways you must be better than the man you’re sitting next to, just to be considered good enough, but you can’t expect anyone else to rate you, if you don’t believe it yourself.
You do not have to change who you are to be good at your job!