Date: 8 March 2018
My name is Jacqui Suren and my journey within the aviation industry began with the Royal Air Force, which I initially entered as an Intelligence Officer. However in 1989 the government made the decision to allow female military pilots, and I was selected as one of the two first women to begin RAF pilot training.
Over the next two years I enjoyed the most incredible pilot training at Swinderby, Church Fenton where I first met the now L3 CTS President, Robin Glover-Faure, who was a (very young) instructor, and at Waddington. There was a very different atmosphere during these two years, to put it in context; the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed and the first Gulf War saw the liberation of Kuwait.
With early retirement due to the downsizing of the military, I switched to airline pilot ground training, first at BAeS in Australia and then at Oxford and other UK schools. More recently I set up and ran the Coventry based ProPilot, before transferring into L3 CTS as Head of Ground School.
During the last three years with CTS, I’ve been most fortunate to work alongside the dedicated personnel at our Coventry, Southampton and Hamilton Training Centers. I’ve also deeply appreciated being able to meet and assist so many capable cadets at the start of their journey to the flight deck and airline careers.
Last year I moved to Head of Regulation and Development, where I work in ab-initio training development and in systems and low level devices projects with our Training Systems business. I’ve also continued with regulation tasks and was delighted to see last month, the fruition of the EASA rule making task 595 to modernize theoretical knowledge training for the professional pilot licenses which has been achieved though impressive industry and EASA teamwork and thousands of hours of work!
My mobility over the years within the aviation industry means I have been able to see and experience firsthand the changing attitudes towards female pilots. I stand by my direction then, as now, that pilots should be selected on ability and trained for competence. Prejudice against diversity, be it based on age or sex, or ethnic, religious, economic or cultural background is thankfully reducing in aviation. However for the industry to develop and provide the safe and efficient aviation transport infrastructure that is required today and in the future, we must ensure that we attract and train the most capable pilots.
Airlines also recognize this, with some airlines providing bonded sponsorships which enable the most capable to enter the profession. In addition, we are seeing ICAO and international groups such as the International Pilot Training Consortium, driving initiatives to inspire the next generation of pilots.
Given that it is Worldwide Women of Aviation Week, the advice I would offer to women, and anyone considering pursuing a career as an airline pilot is this: consider how you would feel in the future if you did not take the opportunity to enter one of the most challenging and responsible careers available to you, with the best office view in the world and an enormous range of possible career paths?! Find a gliding or flying club, or if younger an Air Cadet squadron where you can fly and gain aviation experience, contact and talk with pilots. And finally, remember: to learn fast you need to make mistakes and don’t be put off by others comments and attitudes.