Female Pilot Scholarship in partnership with FTEJerez

International Women's Day crew

We are excited to launch a partnership with FTEJerez to attract more female pilots. The scholarship will be co-sponsored by Thomas Cook Airlines and FTEJerez and is in honour of Elise Raymonde de Laroche, a French pilot and the first woman ever to receive a pilot’s licence, 108 years ago on 8 March, 1910.

The scholarship is open for female applicants to be trained at FTEJerez as part of the Thomas Cook Airlines Mentored Cadet Pilot Training Programme. Female pilots entering this programme will be eligible to apply for the €30,000 scholarship which will go towards their training costs at FTEJerez. The scholarship will run every year for the next five years.

First Officer Berglind Rafnsdóttir-Teasdale is a member of the pilot recruiting team at Thomas Cook Airlines and conducts both pilot interviews and simulator training –

I think historically, people have seen pilots as being men. We need more women to challenge norms and keep our industry moving forward.

To find out more details and to apply visit FTEJerez.com

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All female flight for International Women’s Day

Last week on International Women’s Day we announced the new scholarship on an all female flight from Manchester to Gran Canaria. With First Officer Victoria McCarthy stepping out of the flight deck to chat to passengers about her role.

Interview with First Officer Victoria McCarthy

When did you know you wanted to be a pilot?

I decided I wanted to be a pilot around the age of 14 after a flight home from a family holiday. However my awareness of aviation started many years earlier thanks to my father. He was in the RAF and often took me to air shows and sat me in the garden under the flight path into Heathrow to see the aircraft coming into land. For my 16th birthday I was given an hours flying lesson at Biggin Hill. The instructor gave me the controls during the flight and from then on, I was hooked!

How did you get into aviation?

Having decided I wanted to pursue a career in aviation I chose my GCSEs and A-Levels with that in mind. I then went to university to study Aerospace Engineering and alongside my degree I joined the Universities Air Squadron which gave me a chance to decide if I wanted to fly in the military or commercially. I felt that I was better suited to commercial flying and so completed my flying training at Oxford Aviation Academy. This training school takes you from zero flying experience all the way through to having the required licences to pilot a commercial jet. It is an intensive course delivered over 18 months.

Victoria McCarthy First Officer

Tell me more about a day in your life as a pilot?

I am currently flying the Airbus A321, short-haul across Europe. My typical day consists of two flights which usually depart and return from my home base in the UK. Unlike most jobs, I don’t work 9-5. The time we start can vary from very early in the morning to very late at night but it’s strictly regulated to make sure we have the correct rest period before and after.

A typical day starts about two hours before my flight when I get sent the paperwork by email. I’m still at home at this point so I will go through what my day will entail and have a look at the weather en-route and at our destination.

I then travel down to Gatwick and meet my crew in the crew room about an hour before our flight. We will decide on how much fuel we will need and who will fly on each sector. The duties of each sector are broken down into two distinct roles; one pilot is responsible for flying the aircraft and the other is responsible for monitoring the aircraft while communicating with air traffic controllers.

We then make our way out to the aircraft to complete our pre-flight and security checks inside the flight deck and also a walk around to check the condition of the aircraft on the outside. We will then set up the computers with the flight plan and liaise with the engineers and ground crew for a swift departure. Once all the passengers have boarded, we communicate with air traffic to get our clearance to get under way.

We will fly the departure from the airport and when cruising we will spend time checking the major systems, complying with air traffic requests and brief for the arrival into our destination. Once we have landed and the passengers have disembarked we will swap roles and then do the same process in setting up the aircraft for the return journey. Once we land at the end of the day, we will complete our paperwork and hand the plane over to the engineers for its daily checks.

What are the best parts of being a pilot?

I love so many aspects of my job, flying an aircraft is an exciting privilege. Of course the views from the flight deck are incredible – snowy lands of Scandinavia, the crystal clear waters around the Greek islands and the sun rising over the alps to name but a few, but the feeling of breaking out of the grey clouds of the UK into the sunny clear sky above is a fantastic feeling.

We also work in an industry that is always striving to develop new technologies and be better than before. It means we are constantly learning and developing our skills to meet the new capabilities of the aircraft. Even though our primary job is to fly the aircraft, we work as part of a much larger team. It’s not just the two of us in the cockpit but the cabin crew, ground engineers and office staff. I enjoy the customer relations side of a flight; happy customers come from the whole team working well together which leaves you feeling very rewarded at the end of the day.

What are the challenges of being a pilot?

The aircraft we operate these days are highly complex machines so we need to be across technology, SOPs (standard operating procedures) and a myriad of information on the flight deck. Dealing with the unexpected while delivering a safe flight is a constant but exhilarating challenge.

As commercial pilots we work unsociable hours just as many others in different walks of life. Our rosters are published six weeks in advance and so our lives must be planned well to make sure that we achieve a healthy work-life balance. You quickly learn how to adapt to shift work and sleep at strange times of the day!

Aviation is very much a male-dominated field, what are the challenges of being a woman in this field? What is your advice to any woman who wants to be a pilot?

From my experience, there are no specific challenges that women face in this industry compared to men. Our day to day duties, training, promotion opportunities and pay are very transparent and equal within the role of a pilot. Most of the challenges that surround women in the industry are based on the uptake of women coming into the role. I believe greater encouragement and awareness of the role is needed amongst younger women to show them how great this job can be. My advice for any budding pilot is to visit a few flying schools on open days to get as much information as possible and meet other pilots.

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