Saab's military helicopter operations are geared towards training, support and maintenance. Since 2012, operations have been ongoing in Hangar 81 at Malmen, and around thirty employees work with the support and maintenance of 20 Helikopter 15s. Nelly has been one of these employees since May 2016.
"The reason I became a helicopter mechanic is because there's nothing I enjoy more than to fiddle and tinker with mechanics. I've tinkered with cars my whole life and wanted to find out what it was like in the field of aviation - and it truly is a lot of fun!" says Nelly.
Prior to joining Saab, Nelly worked in Patria's warehouse and issued spare parts for Helikopter 16. Patria also works with the support and maintenance in the helicopter wing. Because Nelly longed to work in closer proximity to the actual helicopters, she applied for a position as a helicopter mechanic at Saab.
Since she started in May, and after a few orientation weeks during which she learned the routines at the hangar, Nelly began working and participating in "checks". A certified helicopter maintenance technician inspects everything she does. This process is the same for everyone who is not yet certified as a helicopter maintenance technician, although she gets to tinker just like everyone else.
Nelly is highly sought after in the job market
Sweden has seen a rise in the number of women in traditionally male-dominated professions along with a decline in those considered traditionally female-dominated. And vice versa. But this development is progressing sluggishly. Nelly is one of very few female mechanics in the helicopter wing at Malmen.
"Being a man or a woman has no bearing on being a helicopter mechanic," says Nelly. "Everyone does the same training and acquires the same knowledge. I am who I am, I have my experiences, and work in my own way. My colleagues work in their own way and we work well together. If you're a girl and are thinking about doing this kind of work, just go for it!"
Talented helicopter maintenance technicians are in high demand in the market. Furthermore, numerous companies and government agencies are in direct competition to employ women. Everyone recognises the advantages and everyone wants the same thing - a good combination of age, gender, background, experience, attributes and attitudes. This combination allows strength to increase and creativity to flourish, both of which are conducive to generating long-term profitability for Saab.
"Each person always has something to contribute - their knowledge and experience can be utilised by others in the course of the work," continues Nelly. "I've always loved tinkering with mechanics and I consider it a true privilege to be able to work with this too. It's just a matter of going for it, it becomes natural."
Three years ago, Nelly's manager made the decision to increase the proportion of women in the business to at least 25 percent before the end of 2016. The initiative began with wide-ranging involvement and participation in steering groups for Linköping and Luleå's high schools and vocational schools, which train mechanics and technicians in aircraft and helicopter maintenance.
Are you interested in becoming a helicopter mechanic?
At high school, Nelly's studies revolved around the sciences, with a focus on aeronautics. She then went on to study at the Nordic Aviation Technology Centre, which is a vocational college in Luleå.
"You need to study a lot to become a helicopter mechanic, but if you enjoy studying then it's not difficult. My interest in cars meant that I had a basic understanding of mechanics right from the start, but I learnt a lot of theory in the field of aviation, such as aerodynamics, materials science, and technical maintenance," says Nelly.
No prior knowledge is necessary to apply to the vocational college, and students are not required to have attended high school previously.
Once a helicopter mechanic receives their certificate, they receive the title of Helicopter Maintenance Technician. The course takes between three and five years, depending on a person's prior level of education.
"Now I want to focus on getting my certificate so that I can work as a helicopter maintenance technician, and I also want to get type certificates so that I can work on several different helicopters," says Nelly.