Felicia Edem Attipoe, a single mother, is the Most Inspiring Woman in Aviation, who has defied the norm to become Ghana’s First Female Aircraft Marshaller.
While training to become a marshaller, she failed two times. “All I needed was just 50 percent. I never gave up,” she said.
On the tarmac, you’ll often see Attipoe standing in a prominent area using sign language known as marshalling signals to direct aircraft.
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Despite being a male-dominated profession, Ms Attipoe is one of the few women, who is rubbing shoulders with the men as aircraft marshallers in the West African country. “So far as I was concerned, aircraft marshalling was purely a man’s job. It was solely done by men, till I joined the section. Now we have 15 ladies here. And for me, there are no gender hindrances,” Ms Attipoe stated.
Growing up, she had ambitions just like any young girl. “Growing up, I wanted to be a musician, and at a point, I learned and played keyboard at church. The keyboard playing enhanced my typing ability and I knew I will eventually become a secretary,’’ she said in an interview.
She got the opportunity to do her attachment at the national theatre, helping to produce the popular Keysoap Concert party. “My attachment at the Ghana National Theatre moved me into art and I am proud to be part of the beginners of concert party in Ghana where I was a producer,’’ she narrated.
However, her journey to become an aircraft marshaller started out as a secretary at the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority from 1999 and she later joined the Ghana Airports Company Limited.
She took a four-year leave without pay to study whilst living with her husband abroad, but Ms Attipoe returned home as a single mum after a failed marriage that left her shattered. In order to survive, she resorted to selling porridge (Koko) and fruit salad at the airport.
In 2011, she got her job back but with a transfer to the Ramp section as a secretary. “When I got there I realized there was little a secretary could do in that section. I was dormant and always sleeping. I felt I was underutilized”.
Since she was less busy, she would spend some of her time observing how the men marshalled aircraft to bay. At that time there were no females.
Fascinated by the work of the marshallers, Ms Attipoe took a bold step of telling the Director of Airport Operations that she was interested in that field. It took a while for him to agree, but she later got the opportunity to apply and be trained as a marshaller.
“I failed the exams the first time, rewrote and passed it at the second attempt. My first time on the field was tough. When I saw the aircraft coming, I wanted to drop the bats and run away, but the men were so helpful. They encouraged me and gave me much support,” she stated.
Now she loves her job and does it passionately. According to her, even though aircraft marshalling was not her childhood dream, she is living a fulfilled life. She reiterated how proud she was to have marshalled the presidential Flight 001, which had then Ghanaian president John Dramani Mahama on board.
Recently, she was recognised by the Kwame Nkrumah Hall JCRC of University of Cape Coast (UCC) and the Women of Excellence for her outstanding sacrifice, understanding and steadfast support of the Women of Excellence week Celebration 2019.
Apart from aircraft marshalling, Ms Attipoe with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the African University College of Communications, a Diploma in Photography from Temple University, Japan and Certificates in Aerodrome Safety, Certificate in Marshalling and Radio Telephony from the Aviation School, also engages in social works.