During World War II, women bravely left their homes and walked into production plants to help the war effort. These women would build nearly everything needed to win the war. They took jobs on assembly lines manufacturing ships, tanks, airplanes, and other materials needed by those fighting overseas. They earned the nickname “Rosie the Riveter,” and they helped see America through to victory.
Today the spirit of those women is alive and well in the aviation community. A shining example of this can be found in a hangar at the French Valley Airport in Murrieta, California. Aircraft Restoration Services LLC, which is owned and operated by Pat Rodgers, is home to some very exciting projects. Walking into the hangar, one can see aircraft like an F-4 Phantom, Huey gunships, and two B-26 Marauder restoration projects. The silence of the hangar is broken by the hum of air compressors, drills, and a rivet gun. This rivet gun is being used by a younger generation Riveter, carrying on the same legacy which the original “Rosies” started in the 1940s. This riveter is 24-year-old Samantha “Sam” Guerrero. Much like the women who came before her, she is building bomb bay doors and landing gear doors for a WWII bomber. The significance of what Sam is doing is not lost on her.
“It is pretty awesome to think that women originally put these together and drove these rivets, and now I am restoring their work,” Sam said.
Sam’s journey to get her to where she is today is one that inspiring and truly showcases the welcoming environment that exists in the aviation community.
“While attending college I became very interested in rocketry. I have dreams of one day working at NASA,” Samantha explained. “I really love the physics and engineering side of things.”
It was this love which led a friend from a local skydiving operation to connect her with Pat Rodgers, EAA 483968. Pat’s collection of military aircraft would become a living and breathing classroom for Samantha. Under the close supervision of Pat, Pete, and Shayne, Sam would soon be learning technical skills as well as aviation history in a very hands-on environment.
“I think the first thing that struck me was how welcoming everyone was there. The second was the chance to see these amazing aircraft in various states of restoration.” The setting for these lessons are perfect for Sam’s taste in learning. “I love to do it yourself. I think I learn best by getting in there and trying it. I really enjoy the fact that I am able to get hands-on and super dirty just working on various pieces of metal from these aircraft.”
Samantha enjoys using her A&P certificate to help put together these important pieces of history. “It is just so different than anything else I have ever done.” Sam had restored three bomb bay doors for the B-26 on a team with others. Now she is building one from scratch. “I am really proud of this door and I catch myself stopping and taking pictures when I reach a milestone in the project. Shayne started calling me Rosie the Riveter a while back and it got me reading more about these amazing women.”
Riveting is just one of Sam’s talents. She is currently attending Cal Poly Pomona where she is studying physics. She is also on a rocketry team where she serves as the structures section team member. They are currently launching rockets to altitudes higher than 30,000 feet.
Thanks to Sam’s desire to learn, her appreciation for history, and a wonderful support group around her, there is no telling how high Sam will soar.