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Make safety seen

Release date:
July 2023
Nikea McHugh standing in front of an Air bp fuel tanker
At the end of June, we celebrated International Women in Engineering Day (IWED) with one of our female refuelling engineers Nikea McHugh winning a Safety Leadership Award. Here, she explains what safety means in her job, the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and why she loves being a refuelling engineer.


What does safety mean to you in your job?

Safety procedures in aircraft refuelling are of the utmost importance to ensure the wellbeing of passengers and crew members as well as refuellers. Refuelling an aircraft involves handling highly flammable substances such as Jet A1, which can pose significant risks if not managed with precision and adherence to safety protocols. We are trained for roughly 12 to 13 weeks to ensure we are both thoroughly versed with all the knowledge behind why we do things the way we do and to ensure we are comfortable and confident in our ability to handle the fast paced ever changing job. It is the most thorough training I have ever undergone in any job I have had, but when you understand the consequences for getting things wrong it all makes sense. Safety of both refuellers and passengers is always the number one priority.


What do you like most about your job?

It’s impossible to choose just one thing. I love my team, the atmosphere, and the job itself is incredible. It’s the best job in the world. I have a team who have each other’s back and work in a constantly changing environment where every day is different. Above all else though I have a job that enables connectivity whether it’s with family or friends or colleagues. Every day I am part of the reason people get to see, hug and kiss their loved ones. It doesn’t get any better than that.


What are the main challenges?

The challenges differ over time. When I first began my training with Air bp I had to learn how to get a heavy fuel hose above my head and into the wing of an aircraft. That took me a few weeks to master. Airline delays and inclement weather are probably the biggest challenges we face now. Even if I’m drenched the nature of the job means refuelling has to happen, but it’s not pleasant when you’re absolutely soaked through. Aircraft delays can also cause havoc as one aircraft being late for refuelling can impact other aircraft as they then all want to be refuelled at the same time. The important thing is as refuelling engineers we operate as a team and help each other out when needed.


How important is diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

My grandmother says, “It takes all sorts to make a world” and she is not wrong. Diversity teaches us so much and enables us to learn from each other. The men and women that work at Air bp bring so many different skills to the table and I believe we can learn so much from having different ethnicities, genders and people from different backgrounds in the workplace. It reinforces that feeling of inclusion.


Working as a refuelling engineer, do you feel that your gender gives you a different perspective from your male counterparts?

There is something about being a woman in a male dominated industry that makes me feel empowered every day. I don’t necessarily feel there are specific advantages being a female refuelling engineer, but I definitely feel I have a different perspective. Nearly three and a half years after joining however I am now one of four women working on the tarmac at Brisbane Airport and Air bp has 17 female engineers working across the Asia-Pacific region.


What is the best thing about your job?

Air bp is like a little family. Everyone cares about their colleagues and is very supportive. I have never experienced anything like it in any other job. Everyone works as a team and it makes me happy to come to work each day. It’s about working smarter, not harder, to ensure everyone is having a great day together.


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