Only female helicopter technician with Maryland State Police is proud of that distinction
Repairing helicopters might be considered a male dominated field, but don't tell that to Michelle Beatty.
The 54-year-old Beatty is the only female helicopter technician with the Maryland State Police — and she's proud of it.
"Honestly it feels good," she said. "But honestly, I feel like one of the guys."
The native Pennsylvanian was born and raised in the Waynesboro and Greencastle area. Beatty is a 2016 graduate of the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in Hagerstown, where she earned her airframe and power plant certification.
She graduated second in her class, knowing she wanted to work for the Maryland State Police. She started her career in 2018.
Beatty said she is thrilled with the distinction of being the only female helicopter technician for the state police. She said she considers the job more than just using a wrench to repair helicopters.
"I'm not just working on a helicopter, I'm working on a helicopter that saves lives," she said. "Who knew that turning wrenches could actually help save someone’s life.”
Beatty works on helicopter Trooper 2 stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, near Morningside, Md., and Trooper 7, in St. Mary's County in Southern Maryland.
The state police fleet of helicopters are used for emergency medical transports, as well as search and rescue missions, among other operations.
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Beatty and her husband, Chuck, 54, live in Hollywood, Md., in the southern part of the state.
Not only are they the same age and sweethearts in elementary school, they are a bit of a power couple when it comes to repairing helicopters.
Chuck is a 2012 PIA graduate in Hagerstown, and repairs medevac helicopters for Metro Aviation.
Beatty credits her husband with convincing her to follow in the same career path.
"I talked to Chuck, and he told me he worked on helicopters," she said. "I laughed at him, but he showed me what he does."
The rest is history.
Chuck is proud of his wife's accomplishments.
"Nobody covers two (helicopters)," he said. "She's doing double what others do."
The couple said they love that they work in the same field.
"It's cool to talk about the same stuff," Chuck said. "It's nice to come home and talk about it."
"He know's what he's talking about," she said. "He's way more experienced. He has 11 helicopters under his belt. If I have questions, he's my go to guy."
Michelle Beatty is also part of a helicopter technician recruiting team that is working to encourage other people to take up the profession.
"We both love what we're doing," she said. "When we were in high school we never heard about aviation. Nobody ever said anything about aviation. We want students to know there's an option."
According to 2020 data from the Federal Aviation Administration, of the 306,301 licensed airline mechanics in the country only 7,860 of those or 2.6% are females, according to a news release from PIA.
"Based on enrollment trends, the good news is that the number of females interested in aviation maintenance is on the rise," the news release states. "Currently, 8% of students identify as female at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics."
But Beatty said she wants those interested in the field to understand it's more than just repairing helicopters. She wants them to understand these helicopters are used to save lives.
"I want them to be mission-oriented," she said.
So what advice does Beatty have for other women who are considering going into the same field?
"It's a lot of hard work, but if you have a goal go for it," she said.
Sherry Greenfield is the Education Reporter, covering Washington County Public Schools and the Washington County Board of Education.