As general manager of ExecuJet MRO Services’ Brussels facility, Nadia Coetzee loves overseeing the 24/7 provision of essential support to get business jet operators’ assets back in the air.

Many of those interviewed for our Women in Aviation series describe themselves as obsessed with flying from an early age. However, growing up in a tiny farming community in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, it was not on Nadia Coetzee’s radar. In fact, she did not set foot on an airliner until she was 23, by which time – with a business and finance degree behind her – she was seeking a suitable career.

Nadia Coetzee

Source: ExecuJet MRO Services

Coetzee loves the moment when a jet is released to fly again

Today, as a youthful general manager of ExecuJet MRO Services’ busy 11,000sq m (118,000sq ft) Brussels facility, she describes herself as passionate about aircraft – especially, making sure grounded ones are back in the air as quickly as possible.

“People think I’m crazy liking AOGs [aircraft on ground],” she confesses. “But I love that moment you release a business jet to fly again.”


Her journey to the Belgian capital and MRO management began in an office overlooking a business aviation hangar in Cape Town. After working briefly for a construction company in Port Elizabeth (now Gqeberha), where she went to university, she accepted an administrative job at a line station run by ExecuJet (Dassault Aviation bought the business’s MRO arm from Luxaviation in 2019).

She knew next to nothing about aircraft, but as she glanced up from the spreadsheets on her computer screen, she could not help but be “impressed” by the revolving array of jets and turboprops being worked on below the office window. Gradually, as she moved roles – including a transfer to the larger Lanseria facility near Johannesburg – she began, as she puts it, to “get the bug”.

“I started doing quotations, and you find yourself picking up the technical side without necessarily noticing it,” she says. Before long, she had successfully applied for a supervisor job, and, at the age of 28 found herself managing a 13-strong team, signing off quotations and running purchasing and receiving operations.

That meant dealing with engineering colleagues and suppliers as well as juggling priorities on about 20 ongoing projects, mainly out-of-warranty Hawker and Bombardier jets. “There was always drama,” she recalls. “That’s why I loved it. It was a wide ranging and challenging job, so there was never a dull day.”

She had rarely left South Africa, but when in 2023 she heard about a vacancy as head of the ExecuJet MRO Services centre in Brussels, she enquired what her chances might be. The answer was: “We think you can do it.” Dealing with AOG situations all over Europe and beyond, the operation needed “not necessarily a technical person, but someone to make projects run smoothly”, she was told.

Although Brussels, along with a satellite operation in Kortrijk (close to Lille on the French border), offers up to 12-month inspections, AOGs are its bread and butter. Specialising in Dassault Falcons, but also certified for Textron Aviation Cessna Citations, the facility handles stricken European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)-registered jets all over Europe and Africa, as well as scheduled maintenance.

It means Coetzee and her staff must be ready to respond to calls 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, even if it means dispatching a technician thousands of kilometres to places where infrastructure is limited. Her most challenging mission was to Niamey in Niger. However, finding volunteers at short notice is rarely tricky. “My team love AOGs,” she enthuses. “They are the first to jump on a plane.”

Coetzee’s own AOG responsibilities as general manager certainly cover many areas. “When a request comes in, I check if we have the approvals to work on it, and do we have a licensed technician available,” she says. “I do customer communications – most want updates every three hours – as well as logistics, airport access, how we get the parts and toolbox there.”


Coetzee is encouraged by the fact that just in her short time more women appear to be coming into her part of the industry. ExecuJet MRO Services says that about one third of its workforce in Europe are female – above the average for the MRO sector. While many are in office jobs, there are female technicians, a profession traditionally heavily male-dominated.

Coetzee noticed this on a recent visit to Dassault’s in-house maintenance facility in Paris. “There were definitely more women on the shopfloor, lots of them interns or just starting in their careers,” she says. “I would love to see even more, and I think we still have a long way to go, but I think things are changing in the engineering field.”

She maintains that during her short career, colleagues have been overwhelmingly supportive. “It hasn’t been the case at all that I’ve faced obstacles or patronising attitudes,” she says. Her advice to other women considering a career in the sector? “If you really want to do something, go for it, and believe in yourself.”

She jokes that the hardest challenge she faces is switching off occasionally from a job she adores. “My team have to remind me to take my holidays.”