Who run the aircraft? Girls!

Who run the aircraft? Girls!

The sky has always conquered girls' hearts, but today it's the girls who conquer the sky. These female pilots have reached the clouds in different ways, and each of them has their own story. It makes us immensely proud to have already 12 female pilots at airBaltic, and we are expecting even more to join the ranks. We wanted to share with you the stories of four of our admirable ladies – what it’s like to be a female pilot in aviation.

Giordana (First Officer) 

How did you join airBaltic?

I was just out of school training and looking for a piloting job that would suit me, but that's not easy when you have no real work experience yet. At the time airBaltic was offering a chance for a position on Boeing 737.

I worked very hard studying and preparing, and the training was amazing and definitely worth it. Now I am on permanent contract as a F/O (first officer) on Boeing 737. airBaltic gave me the opportunity to fulfil my dreams and grow as a professional and as a person and I will be forever grateful for that.

Does it happen often on airBaltic flights that all the crew is women only?

On Boeing unfortunately we have only one female captain, Alina, so it’s not too often that we get to fly together. I hope we have more female captains on Boeing in the future. Flying with male captains is great, we get along very well, but sometimes being able to talk about “girly” things with your colleague in the cockpit is simply great! 

What would be the arguments for choosing the pilot profession you would advise for young women who are pondering whether it’s the right choice for them?

This job gave me the opportunity to meet amazing talented female pilots, inside and outside airBaltic – women I admire and who inspire me. Some of them are also mums and manage to be great at both. Others have created amazing charity projects like the AVIATRIX calendar, raising funds for Swedish Cancer research society every year. I took part in it two years ago myself.

Being an airline pilot means a life of dedication and great satisfaction, too. We are among the people who really get to do what they love. I would definitely point out that there are no differences between our male colleagues and us, we are treated exactly the same, nobody ever made me feel different or less because I was a woman – in a world and society where women's rights are still often endangered. We might have less physical strength, but in all other ways we are as passionate and strong as men. There are a lot of responsibilities in this job, but nothing compares to the feeling of always getting a front-row seat… and the view is always amazing!

Marina (First Officer) 

What sparked your interest in becoming a pilot?

Actually I don't have any of those beautiful stories like knowing already at the age of three that I would become a pilot. At school I was studying well, and what I liked most were exact sciences. Also I knew that my future job has to be more dynamic than sitting in an office Monday to Friday nine to five. Choosing from all the options, the pilot department in the Aviation Academy felt the most attractive. From the first flight I understood I am in the right place and can proudly say I've never regretted my choice.

Which part of learning to become a pilot was the hardest for you?

I guess the most difficult part was the final year – we had to pass an enormous amount of exams and tests while also having lots of practical flight training taking time and attention. That was a time when after taking a hard exam you had to continue studying even harder instead of getting some rest. And at the same time you wanted to enjoy your golden student years. It was a tough period, but now I have only positive memories about the flight academy.

What is it like to be a woman in the aviation industry?

I was lucky to be born in a country without gender discrimination. In the Aviation Academy in Estonia there were 4 girls out of 10 students in the pilot course. Teachers and instructors judged us by knowledge and skills only. Also at airBaltic my colleagues don't make any difference between male and female pilots except for a few pleasant cases – opening doors or giving flowers to the ladies on the 8th of March.

Darja (Captain) 

How did your parents react when they heard about your plan to become a pilot?

To be honest it wasn't a plan or my childhood dream to become a professional pilot. I would say it was destiny. And my parents were not surprised at all – I have a passion for difficulties and they know it – and they fully supported me in every step I made in my career. 

There are plenty of famous female pilots in history, but not that many at commercial airlines. Why do you think so few women become pilots?

Oh, I think you have wrong impression! There are plenty of women in the aviation industry nowadays around the world. But still a lot of women simply don't think about aviation as a carrier field. Aviation is really a challenging and demanding career, and a woman aspiring to have a career in this field should clearly determine her priorities in life – it's really quite complicated to combine family life and a professional career as a pilot. Believe me! 

Which aircraft is your favorite and why?

The aircraft itself is a perfect machine. The one I fly is Bombardier Dash Q400 and I love it with all my heart. Why? Because it's elegant, powerful, fast and gorgeous. I really enjoy every day of working in the sky!

Liina (First Officer)

What should be the first steps if you want to become a pilot?

I studied at the Estonian Aviation Academy. It's four years of studies, combining professional studies and a bachelor degree. For the first two years all the studies were Tartu University standard – math, physics, economy, even philosophy, but nothing about aviation. I would say these first years were the most fun ones from the side of student life and enjoying this lovely university town. But at the same time they were difficult years, considering you're not getting any aviation knowledge, nor getting closer to flying.

In the third year we started to study everything about aviation. The classes took place at the small Tartu airport, where we could watch fourth year pilot-students taking their training flights. Compared to the first two years, now the attendance needed to be at least 75% of the lessons, the days were long and packed with information, but it was fun. In the second half of the third year we also started to fly. Before the summer we had to work around our class schedule to find time for flights, but the summer was all about flying. The fourth year was all about getting ready for the ATPL exams – aviation theory exams, the flying skill test, and also the final paper to get the bachelor degree. It was probably the busiest and most stressful year of studies. After this last effort we were able to get into the market as professional pilots. I don't regret the studies, and I'm grateful for the education.

You have just completed your type conversion from the Dash Q400 to the Bombardier CS300. What is the difference between these two birds? 

For me there are lot of differences – the Dash is a propeller aircraft, while the CSeries is the first jet I'm flying. CSeries is bigger, faster, flies higher and further. I enjoyed flying the Dash, but I'm also excited about the change. I believe it is going to be another great journey! 

What's your favourite airport approach and why?

Since I'm from Tallinn, it's always a good feeling to land on runway 08 at Tallinn airport. Just before the final turn on a clear and sunny day you have a great view of the coastline and old town.

How does it feel enjoying flights from the other side of the cockpit – as a passenger? 

I mostly fly as a passenger before or after work – to go home for days off or return from them. It's good to relax and to know that my colleagues are taking me home fast and safely. Sometimes it's also fun to travel with friends. They have lot of questions about flying and aviation, which we usually discuss during the flight.

If you love the open skies, then maybe a career as a commercial pilot is your calling. Think about it and let us know!

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