Wilmarie Perez, Crystal Mover Services Lead Technician
It takes a very diverse set of skills to be a technician for the system. You have to learn the computers and the maintenance, you have to learn the electrical side of it. You get to learn a little bit of everything at this job.
Wilmarie Perez was fresh out of high school and cleaning Orlando International Airport’s Delta plane cabins for a living when curiosity got the best of her.
“I had to know: How do these planes run? What makes them fly?” she said.
She did a little research and enrolled in classes at Aviation Institute of Maintenance – the first in her family to go to college – and got a degree in Aircraft Maintenance. She had her sights set on landing a job using her new skills at an airport, and her dream came true … with one little twist.
Instead of working on planes, Perez works on trains.
Perez is one of 25 Crystal Mover Services team members who oversee the operations, maintenance and repair of Tampa International Airport’s SkyConnect automated people mover trains and rail system. The trains, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, were installed at TPA in 2017 and now transport thousands of people each day along a 1.4-mile track between the Rental Car Center and Main Terminal.
The trains operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and Perez and her team ensure they operate smoothly, getting passengers where they need to go in under five minutes. This takes a vigilant watch of the entire system, daily maintenance checks and sharp skills to make fast repairs should any issues arise.
Perez recalls the intense several weeks of 12-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week training after she was hired and Mitsubishi sent engineers from Japan to teach the new Crystal Mover team how the complex system of tracks, controls, cables, power systems and shuttle cars worked.
“There was a bit of a language barrier but they did a great job of explaining everything,” she said. “It takes a very diverse set of skills to be a technician for the system. You have to learn the computers and the maintenance, you have to learn the electrical side of it. You get to learn a little bit of everything at this job.”
Perez loves having a hands-on career and hopes to go back to school to learn even more about engineering and aerospace technology. Growing up in New York and Orlando, she had a compassion for others that drew her to the idea of becoming a social worker one day. But she also loved figuring out how things worked and making things with her hands, and that combined with her passion for planes – especially living so close to Orlando International Airport – is what pushed her in the direction of aviation maintenance.
As a rare female technician in a male-dominated field, Perez said she appreciates the support and respect she gets from her Crystal Mover family. Her manager, Marvin Lopez, said Perez is “very, very smart” and picks things up quickly.
“It takes a lot of hard work and intelligence to be able to master both the computer systems and the mechanical aspects of the job,” Lopez said. “She definitely has those traits and she’s a very valuable member of our team.”
When she’s not working, Perez enjoys spending time at the beach and working out at the gym. She also has a peculiar – but not surprising – hobby.
“I read a lot of manuals,” she said.