Barton encourages more women in non-traditional sector

Careers in aviation taking off at CNA – International Women’s Day profile

3/8/2023 10:10:44 AM

GANDER, NL — Time flies when you love what you do, says Melissa Barton, a College of the North Atlantic (CNA) aviation instructor.

Barton is gearing up for Elevate Aviation’s cross-country tour taking place March 14 to 23, 2023.
Melissa Barton, Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technician (AMET) instructor at CNA’s Gander campus, is a program graduate. She is also currently the only female instructor of the college’s aviation programs.

“Elevate Aviation is essentially a not-for-profit organization that travels across Canada showcasing women in aviation and promoting the demand for work in the field,” said the Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Technician (AMET) instructor who works at Gander campus. “There is a huge shortage of AMEs right now since the COVID-19 pandemic, so any and all promotion is good for recruitment.”

The tour will be touching down in several cities across Canada from Gander, NL to Vancouver, BC with the goal of sharing the exciting world of aviation with women and girls.

Getting more women into the field of aviation is something that is important to Barton, who notes it is primarily a male-dominated field.

“It is roughly 20/80,” she said. “For example, we currently have 34 students attending our AMET program and out of 34, only three are female, and I am the only female instructor in the aviation programs at CNA.”

Gander campus is home to both of CNA’s aviation-related programs, and Barton says that students in her program typically don’t have any previous experience.

“Other than being a passenger on a flight, we know that people are coming into this program with little to no experience around an aircraft, so we teach everyone the basics from the very beginning. Everyone is learning together as a team,” she explained. “Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technician (AMET), for example, is a great program and has amazing hands-on learning. We have a full hangar of airplanes, three helicopters as well as a simulator. I enjoy my career and the opportunities it has given me! I would recommend it to anyone.”

Females looking to enter the field don’t need to be apprehensive, adds Barton.

“Don’t be intimidated!” she exclaimed. “People hear the word mechanic and assume you have to have previous experience, which if you didn’t grow up around a garage, working on your car, etc. it can be very overwhelming to some. We are trained to maintain the aircraft and it is a lot of preventive maintenance involved, modifications, troubleshooting, planning, etc. There are so many aspects in this career than just turning wrenches.”

In her blood
Not only is Barton a CNA instructor, but she is also a graduate of the college’s AMET program. Born and raised in Gander, NL, her interest in aviation has soared ever since she was little.

“I grew up in an aviation town, so I often saw planes flying above and went to watch planes landing and taking off at the airport,” she recalled. “I have family members who work in aviation as well, so I was always aware of the opportunities available.”

It took her some time and research to home in on exactly what area of aviation she would enter..

“I researched different careers related to aviation and maintenance that interested me the most, so I figured why not try. Once I graduated CNA in 2010, I began my career as an avionics technician working on airplanes then moving on to helicopters, and currently hold my ‘E’ rating Aircraft Maintenance Engineer’s license,” noting that license rating certifies her to work on a range of systems including, communications, navigation, auto flight and flight path computation.

The busy mom of two says there are many benefits to working in the aircraft maintenance sector.

“It can be very challenging and rewarding,” said Barton. “You get to work with your hands, travel, and there is a huge demand in the industry right now.”

There are seats available in the AMET program at Gander campus for anyone interested in pursuing this field as a career! For more information about this or any of the aviation programs and more at CNA, visit:

Media contact:

Ryanne McIsaac
Content Specialist
College of the North Atlantic