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Under the leadership of Director of Maintenance Mario Mausio, the airline’s techs are considered among the top 5% in the country.

An ATO crew works on the wheel of a cargo jet.

This spring, Aloha Air Cargo and Aloha Tech Ops were awarded the 2022 Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Diamond Award of Excellence, the FAA’s highest achievement for Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) and employers.

Established in 1991, the FAA Diamond Award is the top award under the William (Bill) O’Brien Aviation Maintenance Technician Awards Program. The journey toward this accolade begins with the Aviation Maintenance Technician Award program, where individual employees at an aircraft maintenance facility acquire fundamental training in vital areas such as hazardous materials, Part 145 regulations, safety equipment, and emergency procedures, often through online resources.

To qualify for this award, each of Aloha’s 106 AMTs had to participate in—and log—specialized training that included safety, technical knowledge, aircraft systems, aviation regulations, and FAA rules. Additionally, the techs completed a minimum of 12 hours of structured FAA training, earning each of them individual awards as well.

When 100 percent of eligible employees earn at least a Bronze AMT rating, the facility is recognized with the Diamond Award.

“Only about five percent of stations in the country earn this award,” said Mario Mausio, Director of Maintenance for Aloha Tech Ops. “Aloha had a good record of receiving it year over year, but the past few years, it wasn’t a priority.”

That changed when Mausio joined the airline in August of 2021.

“The workforce and culture are way different here,” he said. “People enjoy being here and enjoy getting work done.”

Fiji born and raised

Mausio’s journey to Aloha began on his native island of Fiji, where he attended high school.

“I wasn’t your typical A-grade type of student, but I was really involved in athletics, specifically outrigger paddling, and rugby.”

So involved that Mausio represented Oceania at the World International Outrigger Championships in 1998 and the South Pacific Games in 1999.

“Between paddling and rugby, I was training a lot. I went to rugby practice after school from three to five. Then I went paddling from five to six-thirty every day.”

But as enthralled as Mausio was with sports, he knew his future was in engineering. Midway through his final year of high school, he applied to a tech institute that housed an aeronautical engineering school.

“To be honest, it wasn’t that I was all that interested in planes—I was interested in engineering, full stop. I was really good at architectural engineering on the technical side of things. I wasn’t sure whether I would be a marine engineer, civil, aeronautical—that part didn’t matter as much.”

Mausio was accepted, one of only 12 students in Fiji who made the cut.

“I was thankful to get it, but during my first semester at school, I received word that another program I’d applied to—one that accepted only two Fijian candidates—had accepted me.”

This opportunity, Mausio said, featured a scholarship from the Fijian government that covered both housing and all college fees. The catch? He was moving to New Zealand.

Air New Zealand

Mausio enrolled in Air New Zealand’s Aeronautical Engineering School in Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island. Not long after he began his studies, the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City jeopardized his future.

“It’s kind of crazy to think about all the ways that day changed the lives of so many people. All the way on the other side of the world, all the way in New Zealand, I was a foreign student. I’d already started attending school, I’d rented a house. And all of a sudden, I had to leave the country.”

When he returned to Fiji, the continuation of his training was put on hold for six months.

“I finally reached out to the institute where I’d been studying, and they sent me to Air New Zealand. If I worked, I’d be able to get back into school with a work visa.”

Air New Zealand offered Mausio an apprenticeship program in Auckland, on the North Island.

“It was ‘summer’ when I arrived, but I was freezing,” he laughed. “But I was so lucky. Moving from Fiji to New Zealand, being employed by Air New Zealand, was a huge change in my life—especially financially. In Fiji, you might only make $50 for a weekend’s worth of work at the local airline, and you had to take it because you needed the money for food or whatever. Coming from Fiji, where you don’t have much—it was big for me. It was probably the equivalent of the average American leaving college and making $80,000 a year.”

Over the next four years, between training and working, Mausio earned his maintenance engineering license.

“I really did have a passion for it. Mechanics and the whole engineering technical side of it kind of always made sense to me.”

Joining Aloha maintenance

Mausio worked for Air New Zealand for 10 years, making his way up the ranks. He got married, and the couple set their sights on Hawaii.

“(My wife) lived in Hawaii but had moved to New Zealand, where we met. In the end, she wasn’t a fan of the cold,” he laughed. “We decided to move to Hawaii.”

Mausio, now a Licensed Aircraft Engineer, took a six-month vacation before looking for work in the islands.

“I learned how to surf, how to paddleboard,” he laughed. “Once I got bored, I applied at Hawaiian Airlines. I didn’t get in at the time—I went to work for Panasonic Avionic for about two months before Hawaiian contacted me.”

Hired as a Heavy Maintenance Engineer, Mausio was immediately sent back to New Zealand to work.

“My old bosses now had to report to me,” he laughed. “I did that for a couple of years before being promoted to look after maintenance in Honolulu.”

Around that time, Mausio said, he met Kyle Nishitomi,Vice President & General Manager of

Aloha Air Cargo, who had just come to work at Hawaiian. By the time Nishitomi left for Aloha, Mausio had been named A-321 Fleet Manager but felt stifled.

“I had the opportunity to replace Kyle when he stepped into his current position, and I know I made the right decision.”

A team effort

The Diamond Award, something Mausio set his sights on during his first year as Director of Maintenance, is a matter of pride.

“It recognizes that an aviation company can—not only become compliant—but keep compliant over time. We, as the company, don’t just go and apply and get this award. There has to be 100-percent effort, 100-percent buy-in from all mechanics to ensure their training is up to date. Not only that, mechanics have to go in and submit their own information—it’s not just an administrative team applying. Every single mechanic put something in for this award.”

Mausio’s settled in on the Big Island of Hawaii. He works a small farm, harvesting breadfruit, and is involved in raising his five-year-old twins. He still paddles with a canoe club during the summer season—during the winter, he trains with Team Oceania. He said he hopes to maintain the Diamond Award year-over-year.

“Hopefully, we can bring back that trend of maintaining this recognition. It’s not only good for business, it’s good for the team. It’s a team effort.”

Hilary Reeves

Hilary Reeves spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining the Saltchuk family of companies as a consultant. Since People of Saltchuk launched in 2014, Reeves has interviewed more than 200 Saltchuk employees from operating companies all over the world. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Reeves is a former president of both the collegiate and local professional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, a graduate of the Society’s Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, and a Toastmaster. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, ski, and practice the piano. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and two young daughters.