Changing whilst flying Qantas

Amy Materka
6 min readMay 21, 2018

Arthur liked to tinker with engines. All engines really, but aeroplanes in particular. When the new plane arrived he set to taking it apart and putting it back together again. Conditions in the far north of Australia were hot and harsh. He had to modify the original design of both the engine and the structure to make sure the damn thing stayed in the air. But fly it would. There was distance to be conquered.

I first met the engineers from the Qantas Aircraft Airworthiness department in the team room. I didn’t understand what they were talking about. There were large organisation charts on the wall. It felt tense. I was the only woman.

My role was to facilitate ‘the change’. In my briefing there had been mention of ‘three phases of transformation’ and some reduction numbers . My job was to make sure that it happened and that dollars were saved.

They didn’t trust me at first. Unsurprisingly, apart from the obvious fact that it was my job to ensure that their department’s budget went down. I was different to them. An ex-management consultant not an engineer. A woman not a man. From the Group Strategy department not the Engineering Organisation. An outsider not an insider.

My training as a management consultant had grown an ability to make thoughtful power point presentations but had not prepared me for cranky, stressed, change resistant engineers.

So, I called on my experience of life.

“I’m here to help.” I announced. “What do you need help with?”

It turned out that these engineers weren’t very good at communicating outside the lexicon of their engineering expertise. They also liked that I listened. I had my in.

These engines are totally unsuitable. Their radiators are tiny and built for cold climates. The blokes call em the “boiling Beardmores”. Arthur had his work cut out to make them fly the distance without overheating.

Over the next few months as I began to develop a working relationship with the team, I also began to understand the situation we were in.

Our team was leading the change to the department in the airline responsible for designing the way the aircraft fleet was maintained. The Engineers worked with the aircraft manufacturers…

Amy Materka

I write for myself because it is cheaper than therapy.