Commercial Aviation

Female Pilots: Now & Then

b33c06eafe04408fa82ccc0e563079fdOn the 8th of March, 1910, Baroness Raymonde de Laroche became the first woman to obtain a pilot license. Later in 1914, Eugenie Shakhovskaya became the first female military pilot in the world. At the dawn of the 20th century few women had received the opportunity to take hold of their dream to fly. But a lot has changed over the last 100 years, particularly in the field of women’s rights, so we ask: how do female pilots feel about their place in the aviation industry of today?

Today the USA is the leading country in terms of the total number of female pilots. According to the FAA, in 2011 there were approximately 25,500 women who held private, commercial or airline transport licences. The statistics indicate that the pilot profession has become increasingly more popular as a career choice for women, as the overall number of female pilots has increased by nine percent over 2002 levels.

‘Currently, from a global perspective, women account for roughly five percent of the overall number of pilots. This does not differ significantly from figures published a couple of decades ago. Indeed, only a few hundred women hold positions as the pilot in command for major international airlines. However, the small proportion of female pilots we are witnessing today is not merely the aftermath of it being a male-dominated position in the industry. It’s just a simple fact of reality that few girls and women seriously consider aviation as a career,’ comments Skaiste Knyzaite, the CEO of

Most female pilots assert that open discrimination in the profession today is very rare. Both passengers and their male counterparts are perfectly content with the idea of seeing women in the cockpit.

Agnieszka Baran, a First Officer on the ATR 42/72 fleet of a major Polish carrier states that, ‘In the 21st century there is surely nothing unusual about being a female pilot, but one can’t discount the fact that we are in the minority. In my company there are only five girls for an employee base of more than 100 males. However, our captains and instructors would never treat us differently or leave us feeling secondary – they are professional, helpful and treat me as they would any other crew member.’

Today global aviation follows the steps of other industries whereby gender is becoming progressively less of a topical issue. First and foremost, this affects air companies based in the West, where meeting a woman either in the MD’s chair, a captain’s chair or in an aircraft hangar is a routine occurrence.

‘A more liberal approach is spreading to other regions as well. In Russia, female pilots have been supporting both the civil and military sectors of aviation throughout its development. Today women are at the controls of jets for major Russian carriers, including Transaero, Aeroflot and UTair, as well as a number of other carriers. In the case of Asia, women have been driving the commercial aviation industry for some time too. For instance, Royal Brunei Airlines, the flag carrier of the Islamic Nation of Brunei, employs several female pilots. Further to this, trends in female employment are being monitored and addressed in quite a number of countries, which is very pleasing indeed,’ comments S. Knyzaite, CEO of

F/O Baran shares one final thought: ‘Yes, it may be a little harder if you are a girl. Even if nobody tells you this, the requirements are set on a higher level and we must prove longer and harder that we can aptly perform the same duty. But remember, girls – with the right mindset, dreams do come true! Learn and work hard, and most importantly – never give up. No matter what position you see yourself in aviation, the day when you finally begin your career will be immensely rewarding.’

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