Tibetan girl Maria's plane obsession

Maria is checking a airplane. [Photo/Xinhua]

Maria is carrying wheel chocks to fasten the aircraft. [Photo/Xinhua]

"There are so many choices. Why must you choose to study a major about the aircraft repair?"

In 2007, a Tibetan girl studying her first year at the China Civil Aviation Flight Academy told her friends that she wanted to transfer her major from aviation service to aviation machinery and equipment maintenance. 

All her friends were perplexed. The girl is Maria.

Choosing the major means that she would be one of the aircraft maintenance personnel after graduation. This post is mainly taken up by men as it requires a lot of physical ability. And statistics show that there is only one female in every 50 aircraft mechanics in the world.

"There are so few female mechanics, so why can't I try?" The slender Maria has her mind set on this great ambition.

In fact, the 30-year-old Maria has never been an ordinary girl. She was born into a well-off family in Mangkang County, Qamdo, Tibet. During her childhood, she spent most of her time playing with boys.

"My mum often says that I'm nothing like a girl as I always play boys' games!" Maria smiles as she recalls.

After her college entrance examination, her mother hoped that she would go to a normal university or a medical college in Tibet, but the attraction of the civil aviation industry was too much for her: "To be in a profession where you can be with planes everyday is so great!"

As she wished, Maria entered the China Civil Aviation Flight Academy. After one-year study of aviation service, Maria resolutely decided to enter the science world of aircraft mechanics, though she studied arts at high school.

In the new class of more than 40 students, there were only four girls. Maria learned welding and fusing along with the boys, and often had cuts and grazes on her hands. However, she cared nothing about that. 
"Now that I have made the decision, I shall stick it out till the end, even though I was starting from scratch."

In 2010, Maria began to work at the Menling Airport in Nyingchi, becoming the first female front line mechanic in the Civil Aviation's southwest area.

"When I started the work, people kept telling me to change to other posts," Maria said. Every time her parents took a flight, they looked at the busy mechanics and sighed, "How come our daughter is doing a man's job?"

Slender Maria looks out of place amongst her colleagues. When fastening wheel chocks on the aircraft tires, her male colleagues could carry four at a time, but Maria could barely pick up two at the start.

What's more, Nyingchi is rainy during summer, but the mechanics aren't allowed to take an umbrella. On working through a morning of rain, even if she wore a raincoat, Maria was often soaked and could pour off a bucket of water from her rain boots.

Maria's cousin once took plane at Menling Airport. Through the terminal windows he saw his cousin on the tarmac drenched in the rain. Afterwards, he asked Maria with concern: "You work so hard, but for what?"

"Because of love," Maria answered with a smile. "Every time I fix a technical failure and every time the flight takes off safely, there's a real sense of accomplishment. Even if the work is toilsome, I'm happy."

It is all down to this love that Maria once again exceeded everyone's expectations. Just when everyone thought this delicate and pretty young girl just wanted to come to experience life at the airport, she managed to get the aircraft maintenance license, which has a high elimination rate. From ordinary ground service personnel, she became a real mechanic and can independently handle flight troubles.

"I can lift four wheel chocks,too," Maria said with smile.

What makes her even more proud is that her 4-year-old daughter has always seen her as an idol. When kindergarten teachers ask what her future dream is, she says, "I want to fly a plane and repair planes like my mum!"

"Whatever career she will choose when growing up, I won't object." When talking about her daughter, Maria adopts more serious tone, "I want my daughter and more girls to be aware that no matter what others say, you must have the courage to pursue the career you truly love."