Date: 5 March 2018
Hi, my name is Lisette and I am training to be a pilot at L3’s European Airline Academy and I am delighted to tell my story for Women of Aviation week.
I think it is important to create more awareness about female pilots, since being a pilot is definitely not only a man’s job! You feel really special as a women, part of the lucky ones who have realised what becoming a pilot has to offer. Even though I am only a cadet now, I hope my story will nonetheless show that women should not hold back when pursuing a career in aviation.
Ever since I was a little girl, the huge planes that flew over our house amazed me. It fascinated me that these really heavy machines could stay in the sky and take people around the world – even reunite them with their families. As I grew older, I learnt more about the technology used in airplanes, the science behind the principles of flight and all other aspects which fuelled my interest. For me, the flight to our holiday destination was always the most exciting part! And when it was time for my final master thesis, I focussed on aviation and performed my research at the Dutch airline, KLM.
After graduating, I travelled to Australia where I had my first real flying experience in a Cessna Skyhawk II. It was amazing; being up there in the sky, the gorgeous views and of course the freedom… I could do it for hours! Maybe because I was upside-down in “Down Under” or maybe because it had always been my dream to fly, but it was there and then that I decided to apply for flight school. I did not want to have any ‘what if…’ moments later in life. So, I started to research all the possibilities open to me, and spoke with acquainted pilots – both male and female. It showed me it was possible for a woman to become a pilot. With the support of my parents and family, I applied and was lucky enough to get selected by EPST. Nothing stood in my way to becoming a pilot!
On March 22, 2017, my fellow students and I set off to beautiful, sunny Portugal to start our flight training at L3. As with many training programs, we started with the theoretical part, which meant eight months of full focus and little relaxation – apart from the occasional trips to discover Portugal or see friends and family. There were 14 exams before we could finally say: ‘Ground School is done!’, and then it was time for the fun – flying!! Flying brings its own challenges; learning how to control the aircraft on the ground and in flight, communicating over the radio, performing your first solo etc. It’s completely new, exciting and so much fun! It can also be very difficult at times, and even frustrating when things do not go to plan.
It is a game of falling and standing up again to try master the skills. L3 provides me with the necessary tools and the instructors give me great support to make sure that I will become the best pilot I can be. I still have yet to perform navigation flights through Portugal, learn how fly solely with the reference of instruments (IFR) and fly a multi-engine plane, and I’m looking forward to every single bit of it! Each day I cannot wait to be up there in the sky again… the moment your lift off the ground is the greatest feeling in the world, and every time I land, I do it with a big smile on my face. It makes me realize that I am one of the lucky ones who is fortunate enough to pursue her dream.
At this moment, only a tiny percentage of pilots worldwide are women. Therefore, it is good to see that attention is being drawn to this by raising awareness. Women are just as suitable for this career as men. Some would even say that women are more capable in multi-tasking and managing the crew. From my experience, I’d say that a team which encompasses both male and female members generally works the best. With diversity you can create synergy and combine the best of both worlds! I hope that these campaigns designed to raise awareness make women realize that becoming a pilot is a possibility that they could pursue.
If you are keen to fly, then do not be held back by the number of men in aviation. I do not find the amount of men to be a disadvantage or a barrier. In my opinion, being a woman in aviation means you are special in a good way! With your own motivation and capabilities, you can really become a pilot if you want to. Take the first step towards the rest of your life today, apply for the screening. When women choose the sky as their profession, they will be among the lucky ones. The beautiful, challenging and rewarding world of aviation awaits!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or follow me on Instagram, @lisettevanschaik.