Today we are celebrating International Women’s Day. Some may argue if we need it anymore, but many doors still need opening for women. Aviation is a predominantly male-dominated industry. Only 5% of pilots are women. Even though we see more women joining flight academies, there is still a misconception that being a pilot is a men’s job.
During the course of the week, we will introduce 5 women of aviation. You will get to know their journeys, dreams and struggles. What made them choose aviation and what can be done to make it more attractive for other women?
So buckle up and enjoy the flight.
As first in our series we interviewed Aleksandra Kachamakova. Alex is a former cabin crew and now she is a student in a flight academy and is pursuing her dream to become a pilot. Since her childhood, Alex has been closely connected to aviation, but it took her more than 10 years to realize what she really wanted to do.
Let’s learn about her story…
Could you describe your journey into becoming a pilot so far?
“Both of my parents worked in aviation and I became fascinated with it when I was very little. Ever since my childhood years I could never imagine myself working in any other field. I applied for a cabin crew job when I finished high school and I did that for 11 years. Two years ago I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to join an airline cadet scheme and begin my pilot journey. Fast forward to now and I am just finishing my integrated course.”
What advice would you give to other women considering a career in aviation?
“They should definitely visit a flight school, book a trial flight and see how it feels, I know I was 100 percent sure this is what I wanted after my first flight with a small plane. If you realize that this is your dream and you are passionate about it, your passion will help you pursue it.“
What obstacles have you faced while getting to where you are now?
“It would definitely be the financial aspect of the training. It’s still the reason many people never manage to get to the pilot seat.”
Women have been interested in aviation since the very beginning. The list of prominent female pilots is very long. To name a few: Amelia Earhart – the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Jerrie Mock – the first woman to fly solo around the world. More recently, Tammie Jo Shults – one of the first female fighter pilots to serve in the United States Navy. She was the captain of Southwest Airlines flight 1380 (17.04.2018), she safely landed a Boeing 737 – 700 after the aircraft suffered an engine failure with debris causing rapid decompression of the aircraft. These women are great role models, yet we still struggle to see more women joining aviation.
The first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
The first woman to fly solo around the world.
Tammie Jo Shults
One of the first female fighter pilots to serve in the United States Navy.
How can we get more women into aviation?
“I think women who don’t work in aviation or are not connected with the sector through family or friends are generally not aware that this is an option for them. I think it’s great that airlines are advertising female pilots recently, it is important to start changing the image of a pilot’s profession in the eye of the public. If a young girl sees a woman in aviation with a successful career, she may be more inclined to consider it as something good for her as well.”
What fascinates you the most about aviation?
“Nothing can beat those views, they never got boring even after so many years of flying! I love the dynamics of it, that no day is like the other.”
The majority of people may think that to be a pilot, one needs to have a very technical set of skills. Yet the CRM (Crew Resource Management) and the NOTECH skills (non – technical skills ) play much more important roles. Communication, decision making and teamwork are crucial for the safety of the flight. And women are as good at it as men (if not better).
In your opinion, what are some misconceptions about women in aviation?
“I think there are a few stereotypes. We are viewed by default as less-mechanically inclined and traits like confidence and assertiveness are often viewed as masculine. However there is no particular skill set that a pilot needs that’s based specifically on their gender, it all comes down to good decision making, judgment, teamwork, problem-solving and communicating.”
What challenges have you faced during your training?
“I certainly had a few, but if I’d have to point out my biggest challenge, for me were the first months when I was trying to find my way around the huge amount and variety of subjects you have to learn in a short amount of time.“
Has it been more difficult to study during the pandemic?
“I would say it was harder to plan and manage my studying time. We all found ourselves in a situation where we had to think of our own ways to study. Nobody could have predicted what has happened. I believe we all realized we need to focus on finding new solutions, to be able to continue our studies, even during such difficult times.”
What would you like to change about the training process?
“I unquestionably prefer engaging CBT types of training over books or group learning. It’s extremely useful when you are finding it hard to focus or want to go at your own pace. Innovative ways of learning are the way to go in the future.”
Aleksandra, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you the best of luck in your studies and career.
If you enjoyed the interview with Aleksandra make sure to come back tomorrow when we interview Anine Vilhelmsen Haug who is a First Officer on Boeing 737 getting ready to fly again soon. Stay tuned!