While working customer service for Spirit Airlines at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Kerrigan Batsa would often hear stories from people about their flights and travel experiences.
This ignited her passion for aviation.
Originally intending on becoming a flight attendant, she was drawn to aviation maintenance instead, despite having little to no experience in the field.
“I didn’t even work on my own car before I decided to go into this career field,” said Batsa, an aircraft maintenance technician for PSA Airlines.
Feeling that this new path would allow her to be challenged and learn something new every day, she went on to pursue her A&P license from Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) Myrtle Beach Campus-School for Aviation Maintenance.
During the 18-month program, Batsa would spend eight hours of day in school working to complete hands-on projects. She relied on support from her teachers and classmates.
After graduating in January 2020, she was hired to work as an aircraft maintenance technician for PSA Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines Group, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Batsa was first introduced to the company during a PIA career fair and was fascinated with their entrance program.
“It just seemed like a good option,” she added. “Everybody was really nice and it was a good starter company. They have training on their third shift and in a hangar. In a lot of other jobs, that would be kind of done on the fly.”
As part of her job, Batsa conducts overnight maintenance on aircrafts as well as responds to calls for departing flights.
“In commercial aviation, you are on call at the line,” she said. “So, whenever you go to fly, you go straight to the gate. You don’t really get to see what is happening behind the scenes. I am the person that is running around trying to get the plane out on time.”
Recently, Batsa was named as one of the recipients of Aircraft Maintenance Technology Magazine’s 2020 Next Gen Aircraft Maintenance Professionals 40 Under 40 Awards.
“It is exciting and also terrifying,” she said. “I feel like there is a weight on my shoulders with all the attention I’ve been getting so early on in my career. But it is exciting knowing that I am getting that recognition.”
Having limited experience with maintenance before entering the field has sometimes made Batsa struggle with her confidence.
“Knowing that other people have a lot more experience with this than me, sometimes you end up second guessing yourself a little bit,” she said. “But you just need to stay confident and make sure you are asking questions and learning something new every day.”
Being a female in a male-dominated field has also brought on its own set of challenges.
According to DATA USA, 95% of Aircraft mechanics and service technicians are male.
On her calls, she is not always assumed to be the mechanic.
“I have actually had a pilot talk to me for five minutes straight, stop, look at me and say, ‘oh, you are maintenance’ out loud,” she said. “Some people don’t realize that I am the mechanic, even though I am clearly in the uniform and talking to [them] about the maintenance issue.”
Despite the pandemic impacting the travel industry, Batsa’s job has not been altered outside of undergoing COVID-19 precautions such as wearing a mask and receiving temperature checks.
“People still have to fly right now,” she said. “It has been a little bit scary because we are exposed to so many people from so many different places.”
In the future, Batsa plans to stay with commercial aviation. Her goal is to eventually go into inspections and potentially work for PSA’s parent company, American Airlines.