Republic of Singapore Air Force

Leading With Precision

Inspired by the stories of the courageous airwomen who preceded her, Military Expert 4 (ME4) Joanna Tess Ooi is determined to make her mark in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). She relentlessly pursues excellence in the maintenance of RSAF’s helicopter aerosystems, embodying a steadfast dedication to her craft.

Military Expert 4 (ME4) Joanna Tess Ooi (second from left) is the Officer-In-Chargeof the 816 Squadron Chinook Aerosystems Maintenance Section. She has earned a Master of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering (Honours) from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and was awarded the SAF Engineering Scholarship.

In the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), ensuring the safety of Singapore’s skies and defending our nation's interests is paramount. Every aspect of operations, including meticulous maintenance work, is crucial in fulfilling this mission.

Military Expert 4 (ME4) Joanna Tess Ooi is part of the latest generation of airmen and airwomen leading the RSAF forward. As the Officer-In-Charge of the Chinook Aerosystems Maintenance Section, she ensures that Chinook helicopters are maintained for operational readiness.

Joanna’s journey is one marked by achievement and dedication. Having been awarded the SAF Engineering Scholarship (SES), she completed her Master of Engineering in Aerospace Engineering with Honours from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. Her inspiring journey towards a career in the RSAF sheds light on the experiences that have shaped her remarkable career.


Military Expert 4 (ME4) Joanna Tess Ooi

What made you want to join the RSAF?

I was invited to attend an RSAF Women’s Seminar during my ‘A’ Levels year while I was considering scholarship applications. I was interested in finding out what the RSAF had to offer, although I hadn’t really thought I would be able to cope with joining the military, both physically and mentally. The turning point came when I heard the servicewomen share their experiences and passion for their jobs. These were mothers, the everyday women on the street, who were able to grow in their appointments and find meaning in their jobs. I thought I could give it a go too and I knew I would not regret trying.

“These were mothers, the everyday women on the street, who were able to grow in their appointments and find meaning in their jobs. I thought, I could give it a go too and I knew I would not regret trying.” Military Expert 4 (ME4) Joanna Tess Ooi

Why did you to choose to apply for the SAF Engineering Scholarship?

I’ve been interested in aviation from a young age and wanted to work in engineering within the sector. I was looking for a scholarship for financial reasons and discovered the SES through the Women’s Seminar. More importantly, I was attracted to the dynamism of the career and the diverse opportunities available in the RSAF. The RSAF’s direct contribution to serving Singapore also drew me to apply for the scholarship and join the air force.

Securing the scholarship gave me a concrete future to work towards while I was studying. It offered a vision of what I would be doing at the end of my university life, and that guided the academic decisions I made.

Can you elaborate on your job at the RSAF? What is a typical workday like?

I am the Officer-in-Charge of the Chinook Aerosystems Helicopter Maintenance Section. I am responsible for my team of technicians and engineers, and for the reliability, engineering and maintenance of the Chinook’s aerosystems.

A typical workday starts at 0800hrs. My section will usually commence our daily operations with a start-of-day briefing. We take this time to discuss important matters like safety and quality issues and the aircraft work planned for the day. I then attend a daily aircraft production meeting. The rest of my day consists of preparing engineering instructions, planning projects and plotting timelines, organising logistics, and analysing defect trends. Apart from this, I will also find opportunities to interact or shadow my team to better understand of their experiences at work. While our expertise as officers-in-charge is in engineering, we are also given opportunities to be exposed to other aspects of the organisation and expand our horizons. Some examples of opportunities we may be given are to participate in meaningful events such as community engagement, charity drives or RSAF55 Open House; or to plan for overseas exercises or deployments, or to even be involved in workplans to influence the future working environment of my people.


Military Expert 4 (ME4) Joanna Tess Ooi (pictured centre) with her colleagues.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement so far?

I consider the greatest achievement to be leading my team to resolve a complex engineering issue that was plaguing a Chinook helicopter even before I took over my current appointment. As I was new, I needed a crash course to quickly get up to speed with the intricacies of the helicopter’s system. The troubleshooting afterwards involved many long discussions with my team, refining the Fault Tree Analysis, scouring through the aircraft manuals and even a call with the aircraft manufacturer. As there was no textbook rectification for the issue, I was analysing the effect our maintenance actions had on aircraft performance in order to guide our next steps.I owe this achievement to my team, for their patience and willingness to impart their wisdom and their openness to my suggestions.

That’s really impressive! What kind of impact do you hope to make through your career?

I hope to help others to discover purpose behind their daily work. I believe that life is most fulfilling not when we no longer need to work, but when we have a purpose that drives us to give our best even in the smallest tasks.

What are the various job opportunities for people working at the RSAF?

There are a few career tracks depending on your aptitude, interests, and available opportunities. As an engineer for instance, one may develop along the path to become a doyen in the Air Engineering and Logistics Department, or lean more towards a Command appointment in the air bases. One could also be posted to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), where the work is more policy related. There are so many possibilities, some of which you may not even be aware of. However, expressing your interest can certainly influence your trajectory.

That’s amazing! Do you have any advice for someone hoping to pursue a career in your field?

Always stay open to learning because even when you think you have gotten the hang of things, you will realise that there are more areas to explore. Nobody can have perfect knowledge of every area of engineering, so it’s a fun environment of continuous learning!