Motherhood and Mentorship: Sharing Knowledge and Advice

By Capt. Kirsten LoRusso (Delta)
Capt. Kirsten LoRusso (Delta), a B-717 pilot, is expecting her second child in May and has found having a maternity mentor during this pregnancy “invaluable.”

Late last year, I received some news from my doctor that 90-plus percent of airline pilots will never hear: I was pregnant! My second child is due May 28, eight years after my first child, Nicholas, was born. Since female pilots are still in the minority, and few are pregnant at the same time, it can be difficult to find someone to connect with and share information.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started reading through my contract and the Delta Master Executive Council’s Pilot Family Matters webpage. I’m a member of a few social media groups for female pilots, and someone recommended a maternity mentor to another member. Knowing how much had changed since my first pregnancy, I requested a mentor at Delta.

My Beginning

When I was 12, I knew I wanted to be a pilot. My grandparents had taken me and my sister on our first trip overseas. I fell in love with traveling, and on the long flight back I realized that if I became a pilot, someone else could pay for me to travel the world!

My mom encouraged me to follow my dreams. Since I’m the first pilot in my family, we had to figure things out on our own. She asked everyone how I could become a pilot and eventually found a ground school course and flight school I could attend at the local airport. I earned my private pilot certificate the summer before I started college.

I attended Purdue University and majored in professional flight technology. Through Purdue, I obtained my instrument, commercial, and multiengine ratings, and before I started my junior year I earned my certified flight instructor certificate. I even met my husband, Capt. Mike LoRusso (Spirit), at Purdue.

I graduated in 2007 and started my airline piloting career just two weeks later. I soon moved on to SkyWest Airlines. In 2011, I was awarded the Women in Aviation International and Delta Air Lines B-737 type rating scholarship, which changed my life. Later that year, I completed six weeks of training in Atlanta, Ga., and obtained my airline transport pilot certification and B-737 type rating.

I was hired by Delta in 2014, flying the B-717. Nearly 10 years later, I’m still flying that aircraft, having upgraded to captain in October 2021.

LoRusso, her husband, Capt. Mike LoRusso (Spirit), and her son, Nicholas, enjoy time together as a family in Japan.

Getting a Mentor

When I was pregnant with my first child, there weren’t maternity mentors—but having one would have been so helpful. Today, the contractual benefits for pregnant pilots have improved, but with added benefits come added responsibilities. That’s exactly where a mentor can help. I now have someone to contact directly should I have questions or problems arise.

F/O Amy Higgins (Delta) was assigned to be my maternity mentor. While I have a general idea of the requirements regarding company protocol, having someone to talk with and point me in the right direction should a problem arise is invaluable.

Amy helped me work out a timeline for my contractual benefits, including when I needed to complete certain required paperwork and what notifications I needed to provide the company and how to do so. From there, I’ve kept her in the loop with my progress.

This pregnancy has gone a lot smoother for me. I know the organization at Delta better and have more sick time to use. But the biggest difference is the significant improvements Delta and ALPA have made to maternity benefits. As I transition between sick leave, maternity leave, short-term disability, parental leave, and bonding leave, I expect that I’ll have more questions and that Amy will help me keep the transitions smooth.

So much of aviation knowledge is “tribal,” and I’m grateful for Amy sharing her knowledge with me as my maternity mentor. And while my situation may not be an exact fit for another individual’s circumstances, I’m always happy to share my experiences with the hope that I can pay it forward.


Visit ALPA’s Family Assistance Working Group webpage to learn more about a variety of family resources, including those for maternity, and to get contact information for your pilot group’s family committee.

This article was originally published in the April 2024 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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