KING & QUEEN – No one knows the phrase, "This is a man's world," better than 24-year-old Anna Brown.
Brown, of Williamsburg, is one of only a handful of female airplane mechanics and licensed pilots in the country. To top it off, she is the owner of her own business, RAB Aviation Services, LLC, in Petersburg, and often works at the Middle Peninsula Regional Airport (MPRA) in Mattaponi.
Women like Brown make up for less than two percent of the 329,000 airplane mechanics and only six percent of the 600,000 pilots nationwide, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"Being a woman in aviation isn't without its issues," she said. "A lot of the older pilots and mechanics started when there were no women in the industry. Some still believe that women are going to steal their jobs."
Brown knew that she would face these obstacles when she chose the profession of airplane mechanic, yet she was unfazed. Encouraged by her father, Richard, a NASA engineer and "aviation nut," she always felt comfortable in the aviation world.
"When I told my mom that I wanted to be an airplane mechanic, she encouraged me to get my pilot's license first, so I did," she said.
While in high school, Brown worked on getting her pilot's license, and always kept her sights set on the future.
"I didn't like high school very much," she said. "I always felt like I was marching to a different drummer. Aviation was my life and not everyone understood."
Brown first flew solo in 2007 and received her pilot's license two years later.
After graduating from high school in 2008, she studied airplane mechanics at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) in Chesapeake. Though she was not a fan of high school instruction, she was a star in the aviation classroom. She only missed 12 days out of the two years it took to complete the curriculum at the school 75 miles away.
"My mom said, 'Wow, you must really like this'," she said.
During her time at AIM, Brown worked on a lot of extracurricular projects, including the Restoration Newport Project, which built from scratch a World War I fighter plane for Gerald Yagen, the owner of the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach.
She took her first aviation job in Georgia and after a layoff, then worked for commercial airlines for one month. It didn't take Brown long to realize she was not comfortable with the commercial airline world. "I'm detail oriented and I have to do things certain ways. Some individuals like to cut corners, and I get hung up on the corners," she said.
Brown returned to Virginia and worked in Hanover County until July 2011. In 2012, she decided to start her own business, RAB Aviation Services, LLC, which was first based at the MPRA in King & Queen.
"It was hard at first. I had to do a couple of non-aviation jobs," she said. "But this year has been a lot better."
Ever since a flying friend gave Brown her first "official job," the business has taken off.
"In a year, everything has gone from struggling to much better. I enjoy it and I'm learning a lot," she said.
Brown's business, RAB Aviation Services, LLC, which she co-owns with her parents, is now located in Petersburg, though she keeps her family's 1965 Piper Cherokee 180C "N8229W" at MPRA, and spends hours doing repairs at the airport for her clients.
Although a relatively new pilot and mechanic, Brown has already started getting noticed by her peers.
She was the sole female participant at the Wings, Wheels, and Keels flying competition on September 28 at Hummel Airfield in Topping, where she won first place in the first ever spot landing challenge.
According to Brown, it was a windy day, which influenced how many people entered the competition and how the planes flew, and high-speed cameras were used to capture the wheels' arrival over the line.
"The first round was great. A couple of people were disqualified because they landed short, and some landed very long because the winds were at 90 degrees, pushing at the aircraft," she said.
"The lighter aircrafts, which normally would excel at this competition, had to keep more power in and more speed because if they didn't, they would ground loop," which is a rapid rotation of the aircraft.
In the first round, Brown landed about 10 feet past the line and in the second round, she landed 100 feet past the line, clinching her first place position.
"There was another plane in the second round that stopped short 2 1/2 inches before the line, which disqualified it, so it was extremely close," she said. "When they gave out the award, I was so nervous. I went into the competition thinking, 'I'm not going to win this. I haven't flown in a long time.' I hadn't flown in a month."
"They gave it to me in this giant pink Barbie case and the bow was pink."
For winning first place in the spot landing challenge, Brown was awarded $2,000 in $2 bills.
"It was a really, really fun day," she said.
Brown has spent what little free time she has sharing her aviation knowledge and passion with the community.
She works with aviation centers, schools, and programs, including Denbigh High School's Aviation Academy, in Newport News.
"I couldn't imagine doing anything else besides aviation," she said.
"It's who I am."
RAB Aviation Services, LLC, offers:
• Aircraft maintenance
• Aircraft detailing
• Aircraft management
• Aircraft inspections
• Instrumental Flight Rules (IFR) and transponder certifications
• Professional photography
• Professional videography
• Aerial photography
• Flight training
• Sight-seeing flights
• Aircraft charters
• Importations and exportations
For more information on RAB Aviation Services, LLC, please visit: rabaviationservicesllc.vpweb.com or contact Brown at: (678) 340-6398.
Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.