Women in Aviation: From Pilot To Sales Executive – Janine’s Story
Mar 11, 2021

Women of Aviation Week continues!

Today we are moving from pilot and instructor roles to management. On day four of Women Of Aviation Worldwide Week (WOAW), we introduce Janine Heldorf Olsson – Vice President at NetJets Europe. NetJets Europe is the largest business aviation company in Europe and has a dedicated fleet of 100 aircraft of nine different types.

Could you describe your journey into becoming a pilot so far?

“I am the adventurous type and I have always known from a young age that I wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary for a living. Becoming a pilot was in fact a “spur of the moment” decision, I felt inspired by a friend who had started in flight school. I have not regretted that decision since.”

What obstacles have you faced while getting to where you are now?

 “I have always felt like “one of the boys”, which is important in a field where 90-95 pct. are men. That has never been an issue to me. I was fortunate to go from flight school straight into an interesting job flying for the United Nations and Red Cross, and since then gone from job to job. I feel very blessed for that, as the industry can be tough when trying to gain experience as a young pilot, no matter if you are a woman or a man.”

What fascinates you the most about aviation?

“After all these years, it still fascinates me that we can comfortably sit in an aluminium’s tube 40000 ft in the air, with minus 65 degrees outside the window and the earth is flying past with 450 knots beneath us. It is an incredible thing actually, and we do it so routinely. Another plus is we, for sure, have the best view from our office. “

What advice would you give to other women considering a career in aviation?

“Sometimes you need to just follow your dream and jump into the deep end. It is a fascinating industry with so much to give the lucky ones who succeed in getting a flying career.
It is for many people a dream they have had for a long time, and be prepared to speak about your job at every party!
Grow a tough skin, do not demand or expect special treatment and you will be accepted in no time.
You will have to work in what is still a man’s world, so keep a sense of humour and don’t be a drama queen.”

Women in aviation - Janine
How can we get more women into aviation?

“I think one of the big challenges women face in aviation in general, is that the job sometimes can be hard to combine with family and kids. A lot of the women who still take on the challenge, unfortunately let it go at some point due to this fact. Some companies worked out a way to help their female pilots structure a great work/life balance, but not all.”

What challenges have you faced during your training?

“I have faced the same challenges as all my male colleagues, it is a very intense and steep learning curve with lots of exams in a short time span. Back when I did my training you could still however run into older instructors with an old fashioned view on women in aviation. It has never really been an issue for me though, but I heard all the jokes.”

In the news: NetJets goes supersonic!

AS2NetJets signed a collaboration with Aerion and in March 2021 has obtained purchase rights for 20 AS2s – world’s first supersonic business jet.

When we hear supersonic, it naturally brings to mind the famous Concorde, but it is going to be very different from it. AS2 is going to be a carbon – neutral supersonic jet and first to accept 100% biofuels. The AS2 will fly 1.4 times the speed of sound (more than 1700 km/hour).

Image credit: Aerion


 How did you get from a pilot to sales executive?

“I was a pilot flying for NetJets when I got pregnant with our first child, and since my husband is a pilot in NetJets as well, we found it nearly impossible to combine two flying careers with a stable family life and kids. I therefore resigned the best flying job I have ever had. It was a big and very difficult decision, but it made the most sense that I “took one for the team”. We wanted another child and my husband had just upgraded to captain. After our son was born I tried to find a way to get back into aviation, and preferably back to NetJets. After a very thorough and tough interview process I managed to land the job I currently hold as Nordic Vice President for NetJets. The leadership, the multifaceted set of skills, the structured way of dealing with issues and the general common sense approach you develop as a professional pilot helped me a lot in succeeding.

I now sell the jets instead of flying them.”

Female pilots face a lot of challenges that are unknown to their male colleagues. And one of them is motherhood.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not consider “pregnancy under normal circumstances” as a disqualifying condition. Some of the pregnant pilots continue to fly into their third trimester, but most of the ladies decide to stop flying when they find out about their pregnancy (this of course depends on the company policy).

Pilots’ rosters quite often are very demanding, lots of nightstops, early starts, long hours away from home. All these extra factors make it even more difficult to be a young mother. Many female pilots decide to take a longer break or completely stop flying. These may be one of the toughest decisions of their lives.

Are you still actively flying?

“Yes, I keep my ME IR rating current on a yearly basis, and I also still keep my SEPL for fun. Whether I will return full time to a flying job is doubtful, but I have worked so hard to gain my license and experience, that I will probably never let it go!”

If you could give one advice to women who are about to start their pilot training, what would it be?

“Be prepared for hard work and to be flexible and open minded. The aviation industry has traditionally been going up and down in cycles, and it is a well-known fact that you will have to at least be open to move around the earth to follow your dream. The current climate with Covid-19 spanning the globe is most probably the worst crisis the industry has had to face, so things are particularly bad right now and jobs are far between everywhere. Looking at it from another perspective, it can only go up from here. It still has the potential to become your best adventure.

However, you will need to do a “risk assessment” before committing to putting down the hefty sum of money for the pilot training.”

Janine, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We are looking forward to follow you and Netjets in the future.

If you enjoyed the interview with Janine, make sure to come back tomorrow when we interview Charlotte Pedersen who is Chief Executive Officer at Luxaviation Helicopters. Stay tuned!

In case you missed it, here is Monday’s interview with Aleksandra Kachamakova, student at Egnatia Aviation, here is Tuesday’s interview with Anine Vilhelmsen Haug, First Officer on Boeing 737 and here is Wednesday’s interview with Anna Kjær Thorsøe, General Manager and Chief Theoretical Knowledge Instructor (CTKI) at Center Air Pilot Academy (CAPA) in Denmark.