MAGIC VALLEY — After running into some issues finding someone to repair helicopter parts, Alice Mondragon Whitney decided to take matters into her own hands and created her own business offering repair services. She then became the first Latina to own an aviation business west of the Mississippi River.
“I wanted to find somebody like me. I knew I wasn’t going to find a Latina, I doubted I was going to find a Latina but if I could just find a woman that was doing the same thing so that I could learn the business from somebody else," Whitney said.
But in a male-dominated field, that mission felt impossible.
And even though she did not have many women in the field to look up to, Whitney focused on running her aviation business. Most of the time she was competing with major airlines for technicians. She said she had to get creative in order to encourage technicians to work for her.
“Being a woman in this industry never became a big obstacle for me other than when I was confronted or confronting someone who needed my abilities or the abilities of my shop,” Whitney said.
On one occasion, one potential client would not allow Alice to work on any of his airplanes simply because she was a woman.
“He said I would not allow, I would not permit you to work on any of the instruments on this airplane and I said interesting, so I said, 'Well sorry you feel like that,'" Whitney said.
Unfortunately for Whitney that was not an isolated incident. She said she ran into similar incidents several times, but she never let that bother her.
“They thought you were crazy until they got about 2 or 3 sentences in and they realized I knew what I was talking about," Whitney said.
She ended up selling her aviation business to be able to care for her children.
Just recently she was featured in the Idaho State Museum's trailblazing women exhibit.
“I just felt so proud to know that somebody acknowledges that what you have done out of your passion and your own heart means something. That it has affected the world that you live in," Whitney said.