When it came time to choose a career, Captain Elise McKenzie knew aviation was the right move.
CAPTION: Captain Elise McKenzie, from 5th Aviation Regiment, talks to soldiers conducting maintenance on an MRH-90 Taipan at RAAF Base Townsville. Story by Captain Carolyn Barnett. Photo by Corporal Lisa Sherman.
The learning opportunities available in the electrical and mechanical engineering aviation officer pathways were a fit for her passion for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
STEM skills are relevant to employment in a wide variety of roles.
A few subjects taken at university exposed Captain McKenzie to Defence’s mechatronic robotic systems.
Captain McKenzie said the opportunity to learn more about the innovative science and technology used in Defence systems was invaluable and helped inform her choice of career.
“This brief insight into the complexity of helicopters and supporting systems influenced my decision to pursue a career as an aerospace engineer officer,” she said.
“Mechatronics combines aspects of mechanical and electrical engineering. It is about systems and has many applications in aerospace.”
Captain McKenzie said mentoring opportunities had been a key to her success.
“As a learning engineering officer at 5th Aviation Regiment, I had the privilege of deploying on Operation Fiji Assist 2020–21 after Cyclone Yasa, at the end of 2020,” she said.
“Understudying the technical support troop commander at the time, we deployed on board HMAS Adelaide with MRH-90 Taipans.
“I saw the role helicopters played in providing aid to the Fijian communities and how the maintenance team ensured the aircraft were serviceable.”
Recently deployed on Operation Flood Assist 2022 as A Squadron’s technical support troop commander, Captain McKenzie was focused on operational outputs.
As the delegated responsible manager for the airframe, she had the authority to make technical decisions relating to the continuing airworthiness and operational use of the aircraft.
Captain McKenzie said the significant preparation undertaken last year before the high-risk weather season ensured readiness.
“For selected airframes, the tools, equipment and parts are essentially quarantined during high-risk weather season to ensure we are prepared at short notice to respond to a task,” she said.
Leading a team of 25 maintenance personnel while sustaining 24-hour operations is one of the many challenges of the role.
“How you manage your team is critical in ensuring the four MRH-90 Taipans are maintained to support ongoing tasks,” she said.
“I have been able to apply my STEM skills in collaboration with my team to innovate processes and improve efficiency.
“I am truly privileged to have a career where I learn something new every day.”