In honor of Women in Aviation month, we’re featuring ExpressJet women who have successful careers in aviation and continue to advance the legacy of women in the industry. 

Rachael Sullivan

In college, Shreveport-based line mechanic Rachael Sullivan was one of two women in a class of 30 studying for an A&P license.

“There were only about five women total at the entire school,” said Rachael. She graduated from the Airframe and Powerplant program at the Redstone Institute in Houston, Texas, which provides training and instruction in industrial fields.

While she always had an inclination toward mechanics, she never thought she’d be destined for a career in aviation.

“In high school, I was determined to join the military. Unfortunately, my medical history prevented my enlistment.”

Instead, she enrolled in Redstone and earned her A&P license in 2006. After graduation, she landed an interview with ExpressJet and was immediately hired as an A&P technician in Shreveport.

“When I first started my career, there weren’t many women pursuing maintenance careers. The women I did come across mostly got started from their experience in the military.”

It takes physical agility, good judgment and a dedication to safety to be a successful aircraft technician, and Rachael has never once doubted her or any woman’s ability to work in the field.

“I imagine that there was once an attitude that women weren’t as capable, but nowadays it’s not an issue. I’ve never had problems with it being ‘a man’s world.’ If given the opportunity and you work hard enough, you can do this job.”

After nearly a decade in aviation, Rachael has noticed an increase in the number of women, including the number of female mechanics, hired by ExpressJet. She hopes to see more women break into the industry but recognizes there are other challenges.

“It would be nice for women to expand the field,” she said. “But as an individual, you first have to be mechanically inclined and maintenance is a very specialized career. Many people don’t think of it when they think of airlines.”

Rachael encourages women interested in aviation careers to consider maintenance, and she hopes they never view their gender as a disadvantage, especially when in pursuit of a career not often considered by young girls.

“Women need to know we can hold our own and be successful in any career if we put our minds to it.”

In honor of Women in Aviation month, we’re featuring ExpressJet women who have successful careers in aviation and continue to advance the legacy of women in the industry. 

kimbates2

For Atlanta-based dispatcher Kimberly Bates, life is about having the courage to take the road less traveled, especially when in pursuit of a lifelong dream.

“Since childhood, I wanted to work with airplanes, but for years people told me I couldn’t,” said Kimberly. “I eventually stopped listening to those people.”

The daughter of an Air Force pilot, Kimberly realized her life’s passion when she took her first commercial airline trip at the age of five.

“I was hooked. The flight attendants gave me wings and I vividly remember looking out the window and watching the clouds pass by. I’ve had a wicked case of wanderlust ever since.”

In 1978, during deregulation of the airline industry, Kimberly graduated high school only to find her dream career wasn’t available to most women. At the time, most aviation professionals entered the commercial airline industry through the Air Force, which first opened its doors to female cadets in 1976. Still, Kimberly faced impossible roadblocks.

“I could never meet the height requirements. I was too small to be a military pilot and too small to be a flight attendant.”

With a dream derailed, Kimberly enrolled in college and worked in pharmaceutical sales before returning to school for an MBA. In 1990, she appeared to accomplish her goals when a major airline hired her as an analyst in their passenger sales department.

“I finally worked for an airline, but the job wasn’t with planes. When I expressed interest in moving into operations, I was told, again, it wasn’t the right path for me.”

Kimberly left after two years and bounced from medical sales to telecommunications and project management. When her job was eventually outsourced, she decided to give the airline industry another try.

As fate would have it, while on a flight from New York Kimberly was seated next to a non-reving flight attendant who told her the previous height requirements for flight attendants no longer existed within the industry. Despite the welcome news, she faced another challenge – timing. With two toddlers at home, it wasn’t the right moment to pursue a job involving extensive travel. Instead, Kimberly encouraged her friend to apply and she was hired by Continental Express Airlines.

Three years later, that same friend notified her when ExpressJet opened a station in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where Kimberly lived at the time. In 2004, a decade after her previous airline experience, Kimberly was hired as a cross-trained agent before transferring to Inflight as a flight attendant.

“I owe an immense debt to the gentleman who hired me at ExpressJet. Despite my background and education, he believed me when I told him, ‘I just want to work with planes.’”

After three years as a flight attendant, Kimberly longed to learn more about operations and decided to earn a dispatcher license. In February 2015, she happily returned to dispatch after a period of working in the Inflight training department.

Kimberly knows her career path is an unusual journey.

“Technically, I’m still in training! Eleven years with ExpressJet and I’m the most junior CRJ dispatcher,” she laughed. “But my exposure and experience in different departments allowed me to do some fabulous things and better understand the operations at ExpressJet from both sides. I wanted to learn as much as I could, and I’m glad I was willing to take a different step and try something new.”

Kimberly’s patience and relentless persistence is a testament to her adventurous spirit. Though her journey to the OCC was years in the making, she recognizes the hurdles women overcame to make their mark in the airline industry.

“When I was younger, women in aviation were a tremendous exception. The doors were not wide open. There was no mentorship or support available. Today, you meet a lot of females in the industry.”

Kimberly is excited to see more women joining the industry, a fact she noticed when she represented ExpressJet during the 26th Annual Women in Aviation Conference in Dallas, Texas. She credits the increase in women aviation professionals to the generational change in attitude towards women in traditionally male-dominated work environments, as well as the changes in the career path to commercial aviation and exposure to new career opportunities.

“It’s amazing how the world’s turned over in the past few decades. People no longer say a woman can’t do a job because of her gender.”

A travel enthusiast, Kimberly is a published travel writer and photographer, and she advocates taking advantage of the privileges of working for an airline.

“Where else can you fly home to see your family for one day or travel to another city for your favorite restaurant?” she said.

Kimberly also serves as a mentor to others and encourages people to open themselves up to new possibilities and be daring with their career choices.

“There’s this idea that once you’re on one path, you have to stay on that path. If you’re willing to step sideways or even backwards, you may find yourself with an opportunity that puts you two steps forward. It took me 25 years to get into this business, and the incredible opportunities I’ve had are the result of not following one path.”

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Everything is bigger in Texas, including the ExpressJet Dallas/Fort Worth base.

On March 5, we added 15 ERJ145 aircraft to our existing American CRJ flying in DFW. Our first ExpressJet ERJ American flight in history departed March 6.

“We were so excited to welcome our ERJ crews and Maintenance teams to DFW,” said Salena LeDay, Inflight manager – DFW. “It was a great sendoff.”

Salena leads the Inflight team in Dallas, along with Chief Pilot Stace Robeson and Maintenance Base Manager Lou Bauer. With the new ERJ team members, our Dallas base will grow from 232 employees to 370, with additional expansion through July as we gain more aircraft. Currently, DFW is home to 83 ERJ pilots, 39 ERJ flight attendants and 16 ERJ mechanics.

“The majors are looking for reliable partners who understand their brand and deliver high quality operations, and ExpressJet is in the position to provide that level of service,” said Brad Sheehan, vice president – Flight Operations. “The expansion of our American operation is an exciting opportunity for us all, and I know there are more opportunities on the horizon.”

In honor of Women in Aviation month, we’re featuring ExpressJet women who have successful careers in aviation and continue to advance the legacy of women in the industry. 

Kristina Serrano 03-15
As an Army brat brought up among supportive military families, Kristina Serrano, manager – Voluntary Safety Programs, was drawn to the aviation industry by its similar close-knit community.

“The familial environment of working for an airline made me feel right at home,” said Kristina.

Kristina’s aviation career began in 1998 by pure chance when a friend announced she needed a roommate to relocate in North Carolina.

“My friend bet me that I wouldn’t move with her and I bet her that I would. And I did.”

She found a classified ad for American Airlines and was hired by their call center. In 2002, her college professor told her Continental Express Airlines was hiring for positions at the Asheville airport and suggested she apply.

“Originally, I applied to finish my internship requirements but the job stuck with me.”

Kristina worked as a cross-utilized agent in Asheville which lead to her current position as manager of ExpressJet’s voluntary reporting programs, such as ASAP and the Fatigue Program.

“I like to say we’re the mortar in the bricks. We take the data that comes from pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, and dispatchers and we help sort through and disseminate that information back to the frontline.”

Back in her early days in aviation, Kristina didn’t find many women pursuing careers in the airline industry as a long-term goal.

“When I first started out, I worked with a good amount of women, but for many, including myself initially, it was just a job. But I was very lucky to go to Newark for a training class and meet the instructor, an incredibly smart woman named Rose Marie Morgan.”

Kristina approached Rose, who still works for ExpressJet, to offer her bilingual skills as a Spanish speaker and Kristina ended up working directly for her in Houston.

“Under her guidance, I learned how to train people and how to conduct new hire classes for employees working in the airports. She was a great influence and I credit her for making me think of my job as a new career,” said Kristina.

Kristina believes there is a lack of awareness of the diverse career opportunities within the industry, especially among those unfamiliar with an airline’s behind-the-scene jobs.

“From the outside looking in, people tend to have a skewed viewpoint of what they can do at an airline. You’re either a pilot or a flight attendant and that’s it. In reality, there are so many careers women could easily accomplish if the knowledge was out there.”

Since 1998, Kristina has witnessed a huge increase in the number of women she interacts with in her job.

“I remember going to industry meetings and when I looked around the room, there were maybe a handful of women. Now, it’s 40 to 45 percent. Of course, it depends on the group but there are more women than ever before.” Kristina encourages others to have passion, persistence, and an open attitude in order to achieve a successful and fulfilling career. She also recognizes the breakthroughs women have made to accomplish their career goals within the industry.

“Everything should always be based on merit and being a woman doesn’t mean you can’t do something,” she said. “But I think that first woman, and every woman to follow her, made a tremendous impact on the others who looked inside and said, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’”

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This week marked ExpressJet’s annual Locks of Love event. Five ExpressJet volunteers chopped off 10 inches of their hair to benefit children with permanent or long-term medical hair loss. Two other employees didn’t make the event, but donated their long locks independently. Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides high-quality hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children impacted by hair loss.

Our executive leaders showed their support by making the first cut to each volunteer’s hair before the professional stylists took over.
03-02 Locks Of Love-22 03-02 Locks Of Love-95 03-02 Locks Of Love-118 03-02 Locks Of Love-79 03-02 Locks Of Love-138 03-02 Locks Of Love-161Following their donation, each volunteer received a complimentary makeover at Van Michael’s Salon Midtown in Atlanta, Ga.

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Check out the before and after photos, and a special thank you to our volunteers and Van Michael’s Salon.

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