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What a change: Former British Airway’s cabin crew member swapped serving champagne at 40,000 feet for fixing Aircraft engines

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LONDON, UK:
Rachel Whatmough (Satellite Technical Engineer) with her daughter Dakota for International Women in Engineering Day, photographed at Engineering, London Heathrow on 18 June 2019.
(Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways)

Spending every week in a different country or city, Rachel Whatmough, 32, had a lifestyle many of her friends envied. Travelling to some of the most interesting places in the world, meeting new people every day and making sure customers always had a fantastic experience.

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© Image British Airways

“I worked incredibly hard looking after customers and making sure every journey felt special. I also felt privileged to be travelling the world and seeing and doing so many things that my friends weren’t able to. I especially loved visiting the Caribbean islands, they really are breathtaking.”

Rachel only thought she would do the job for a year, but it soon developed into her career: “I’d always wanted to be cabin crew, so I thought I’d just try it for a short time before going to university to study Chemistry, but I fell in love with it, and so much so, that I made the huge decision not to go university. I was still travelling the world when my friends graduated three years later.”

During her time working as cabin crew, Rachel met a lot of the airline’s engineers and began to wonder if, instead of working on board the aircraft, she could be part of the team maintaining and keeping them safe for customers to travel on. She had always enjoyed science at school and was excited to have found a way of pursuing this passion without leaving the airline. “It was time for a new challenge”, said Rachel. “Once I realised that I could still work for British Airways, but as an Aircraft Mechanic, it was an easy decision to swap my cabin crew uniform for overalls.”

“I’ve now worked in engineering for 10 years and I’m currently a Satellite Technical Engineer, supporting the engineering team on the night shift, ensuring all our aircraft are ready to fly on time in the morning.”

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© Image British Airways

Rachel, who is on maternity leave after recently giving birth to her daughter, is keen to encourage more women to work in Aircraft Engineering.

“I would definitely recommend a career change and it’s never too late to make the move. I know that coming into engineering a little bit later gave me the time to weigh up all the options and it also meant I brought other skills to the job. Being cabin crew really helped me to understand how even the smallest delay can affect our customers and I always keep that in mind when we’re under pressure.”

The airline offers a three-year apprenticeship programme in Aircraft Maintenance and it is open to anyone, of any age, and at any stage of their career. Apprentices can earn as they learn and they are trained, developed and coached by experts in a real-world environment.

The airline also offers students week-long work experience placements, giving them real, hands-on experience at the airline’s engineering bases at Heathrow, Gatwick, Cardiff and Glasgow.

And, Rachel says, working nights can even prepare you for parenthood: “Working the night shift definitely helped with the sleepless nights, although I don’t think anything can fully prepare you for being a mum!”

LONDON, UK:
Rachel Whatmough (Satellite Technical Engineer) at British Airways for International Women in Engineering Day, photographed at Engineering, London Heathrow on 18 June 2019.
(Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways)