The right stuff
by Christine Anne Berger
Quite a few pilots have made history since Daedalus crafted one of the first pair of wings. According to the FAA, in 2016 there were 584,362 pilots worldwide, and 6.71 percent of them were women. These numbers include private, commercial and transport pilots.
Many airline companies have done their own research trying to find out why they have so few women pilots. British Airways claims that about six percent of their 3,500 pilots are women. EasyJet also calculated in 2016 that about six percent of their own pilot staff are female. EasyJet has been wanting to address this figure since 2015. They decided to launch an Amy Johnson Initiative to increase their female pilot percentage to 12% by 2018, and have succeeded through a combination of education and reaching out to communities.
One person also reaching out to communities is Marion Wooldridge, the deputy chair of the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA). Ms. Wooldridge visits educational and community centers to give lectures about women in aviation. She feels a lack of female pilot role models may play a part in why there are not more women in the industry. She also believes that some might assume that piloting is more a man’s profession. Whatever the case may be, she – like many others – is trying to inspire a passion for flying in young women through the sharing of stories.
So what does it take to become a pilot today? Is it more difficult for women, are there assumptions that piloting is a man’s job or are there too few role models? It is truly difficult to answer that question. Ms. Monica Seth
told womenachievers.net: “Anything is achievable if your passion is true, your conviction is strong and your focus is firm.” To get an even better understanding, we interviewed a Dornier 228 pilot, Lesley Weinmann. Lesley wanted to be a pilot ever since she was a child: “My parents traveled a lot and they always took me with them. I loved flying but not just that. I loved the entire atmosphere, it was exciting to me. My father told me that when I was little I said I wanted to be a pilot and since then my parents have always supported me.” Lesley was born in 1991 and grew up in Germany. She studied Aviation Business Piloting and Airline Management at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (HTW) des Saarlandes (University of Applied).
A pilot’s education
During two of her semester breaks, Lesley went to Falcon Field in Mesa, Arizona for flight training. She spent most of the first two months on the ground learning theory and then, in the second two, she spent a lot of time actually learning to fly. “My first solo flight was really special, it was a crazy feeling and so awesome!” She trained on a single engine Diamond DA20 Katana. After she had earned her pilot’s license, it was time to return home, back to the university. At the university, Lesley was one of five women in her class of 27 students, and always felt respected by her colleagues and professors.
Dornier 228 pilot, Lesley Weinmann
Earning a bachelor’s degree was important to Lesley because she knew that even if she could not work as a pilot she wanted to be in the aviation industry. She knows that things can happen physically to ground apilot, so she wanted to secure her place in the world of aviation – which she did by earning her bachelor’s degree in Airline Management. Just before finishing her bachelor’s thesis at HTW, Arcus Air Group hired her straight out of school.
To fly cargo for Arcus Air, the next step was to earn her Dornier 228 type rating. As with all Dornier 228 pilots, she did her Simtec pilot simulator training at the Braunschweig Research Airport. There she met Dornier 228 pilots from all over the world. Afterwards, she went on to complete her landing training and was totally excited for her first real Dornier 228 flight! One of her favorite things is the feeling you get when landing the Dornier 228.
Career benefits and challenges
Lesley enjoys her position as co-pilot at Arcus Air. One of her favorite places to fly into is Hungary because of the kindness of the people. They always make her feel so welcome. The other place is Spain because she enjoys Spanish cuisine and loves to speak the language! Lesley also met her companion when she landed at yet another airport. He is also a pilot! But flying ad hoc on cargo and being on call most days can make it tricky to keep a private schedule. She has to keep her private and business life very flexible.
Staying in the air
As a Dornier 228 co-pilot (first officer), Lesley must undergo check flights every six months from the right side of the cockpit (the first officer’s position) and every 12 months from the left side of the cockpit (the captain’s position) since the Dornier 228 is a PIC (Pilot in Command) rated aircraft. Lesley did her original type rating completely on the left side. In a PIC aircraft, the person (pilot) aboard is ultimately responsible for its operation and safety during flight.
So, what is the answer?
Lesley currently has about 1,100 flying hours to her name, and her duties also include climbing into and around the cargo bay to properly distribute cargo. You can find Lesley helping her team or working alone to unpack and load pallets. She adores being part of the aviation world and works very hard to assure her place as an aviator. She has equal pay, independence and is treated as one of the team. The physical demand of being a transport pilot can be tough on women but Lesley also enjoys it. The flexible lifestyle can be a challenge on relationships but an enriching experience as well.
So why are there so few women showing up to become pilots? Maybe the answer has something to do with a person wanting to fly so badly, to feel the exhilaration of being in the sky, to take the responsibility or to feel the pride of following procedures and routines meticulously to the letter. Or maybe it is simply that mom and dad believed in their dream and everyone told them “It’s a job for girls, too”. Luckily, today we have rather more high-tech wings than Daedalus’s wax and feathers, and we have people, women included, with the right stuff to fly!