Last updated September 22, 2017 at 9:57 am
How a fascination for physics can launch you into a remarkable career with the Australian Defence Force.
After talking with Flying Officer Ashlea Waight, you quickly realise the traits that guide her impressive professional life. She’s calm, knowledgeable and in control; ideal for trainee pilots and instructors at the RAAF Base in East Sale, Victoria. That’s because they rely on the judgement of this 24-year-old and the team she leads to maintain the safety of their fleet, which means their lives are in her hands.
Ashlea first became fascinated by the physics of flight in Year 11. After hearing about a school friend’s experience as an Air Force cadet and receiving encouragement from a science teacher, she applied to study aeronautical engineering at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), in Canberra.
There, Ashlea undertook a world-class degree through the University of NSW. She also benefited from the highest teacher-to-student ratio in Australia, received military and leadership training, and was paid a great salary while doing so.
Ashlea says she developed an increased level of confidence at ADFA as she set out on a journey to become a leader. “Throughout your training, you are given the tools and skills to become a leader even in complex and challenging situations,” she recalls. “These were put into practice in increasingly complex and challenge situations during my three years at ADFA.”
In her current Air Force role, Ashlea works in maintenance planning and is responsible for fleet-wide issues affecting PC-9/A aircraft. These aircraft are used to teach qualified Air Force pilots to become flying instructors. They’re also used by the Roulettes, the Air Force’s elite flying team, which demonstrates aerial acrobatic skills in displays around Australia.
Ashlea also volunteers with a local cadet squadron, where high school students learn about aviation and the Air Force. They fly and train in an environment that helps them develop leadership skills, build self-confidence and practice team-work.
The next Air Force posting for Ashlea is at RAAF Amberley, on the outskirts of Ipswich in Queensland. She’s looking forward to achieving one of her career goals there – carrying out maintenance and testing on individual operation aircraft at number 6 Squadron with the new EA-18G Growler aircraft. “This is an airborne electronic attack aircraft capable of providing force level electronic warfare support by disrupting, deceiving or denying a broad range of military electronic systems, including radars and communications,” Ashlea explains.
Beyond that, Ashlea aspires to undertake postgraduate studies, supported by the Air Force, in Advanced Mechnaical engineering at Cranfield University in the UK.
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Originally published in Ultimate Careers magazine. Read the magazine and find your Ultimate Careers here.