BATAVIA — Kristen Blue is focused on maintaining small aircraft at an age where many of her peers are worrying about a massive student debtload.
Blue, 19, is held up by the “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe’s WORKS Foundation as an example for students with mechanical skills to pursue skilled trades careers.
But the Pavilion High School alumna and current Boshart Enterprises and Aviation Services worker has been driven from a young age. She joined the Civil Air Patrol’s Condor Composite Squadron at 13, heading to the Perry-Warsaw Airport to break into her current career as a teenage activity.
“It can be really hard to jump into aviation, and Civil Air Patrol helped a lot with that — you get to now people and make connections,” Blue said. “It sold me on doing aviation for my career, and at the end of the day — it was the only thing (for me).”
Through U.S. Air Force’s civilian auxiliary program, Blue learned how to fly, but there’s much more to her experiences – which including a successful search-and-rescue operation. It’s difficult to explain, she said, but there’s so much to learn.
And as an inspiration, they were working on and in Cessna planes.
“I love (working with all planes), some are definitely frustrating, but in general, I enjoy working with small airplanes,” Blue said. “A lot of the people at college went to work at the airlines, but all through college I wanted to work on small airplanes.”
“It’s the whole sense of adventure.”
While she was flying in the clouds, Blue put in the work on the ground. Through BOCES, she interned at Boshart, a company that provides maintenance, operational and safety assistance to the Genesee County Airport’s small fleet of private pilots and hobbyists. Her senior year also brought a trip to Wisconsin for the Airventure airshow, where she served in the CAP’s National Blue Beret cadre.
Blue said the MRWF Work Ethic Scholarship jumped out to her as one of few offered for students going into trades like mechanics, electrical or welding. But she was curious whether aviation was applicable. After talking with the foundation, she made a video explaining why she wanted to work in her field. A scholarship for nearly half of her tuition at Mohawk Valley Community College followed.
“It’s so important, because everyone assumes you have to go to college for four years to be successful, and there’s so many trade jobs out there,” Blue said.
The college scholarship Blue used requires a “Skill and Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo” pledge Rowe says rewards humble self-reliance. At MVCC, aviation students work a 40-hour weekly schedule at the Griffiss International Airport in Rome, and she said living independently was an adjustment. But she kept on schedule and returned to Boshart after graduating in December.
“I really enjoyed working there (in high school), and they’ve been really patient with me as I’m learning – it’s a great place to work,” Blue said.
So while others are looking to her – the Mike Rowe WORKS Foundation is welcoming another round of applicants for the 2018 scholarships – and others are looking at six-figure principles on their college loan debts, she’s got to work to do.
“Airplanes need inspections every year, and sometimes need them (based on flight hours),” Blue said. “We inspect them according to the manufacturers checklist, and make sure the planes are in working condition and safe. And if something wrong or unsafe, we correct them.”
Blue would “absolutely” love to stay in aviation for her whole career. At 19, it might take a flight in a Cessna to see how far the industry can take her.