Date: 10 March 2018
My name is Sonia and I’m a Flight Safety Officer at L3 New Zealand Airline Academy. My inspiration to pursue a career as a professional pilot was my father. He was an air force pilot, so I have grown up in the world of aviation at an air force base.
I first realized I wanted to become a pilot when I was just four years old. My Dad used to take me with him into the flight deck of a C130 aircraft, I remember sitting on the jump seat and watching my Father work. I still recall asking him whether there were any female pilots in the industry at that time, to which he responded, ‘No’.
That didn’t stop me. I completed my flying qualifications in Iran, where I worked as a Flight Instructor. I then joined an airline as a Second Officer, and progressed to a First Officer on the MD80 aircraft. Being a female pilot working in the Middle East definitely presented its challenges – not many airlines would offer a job to a female pilot. There were so many variables as to why they would not accept it, including the culture and the deep rooted traditions. So, I moved to New Zealand and started converting my licenses, which was not an easy step considering the differences in standards and training syllabuses!
As a female pilot in New Zealand I have always been treated fairly and equally. My gender has never been an issue outside of aviation, yet people are still surprised when they discover my occupation. Surely if you are qualified to fly an aircraft and can to the expected standard, then it does not matter whether you are a male or female! I also believe that role models are vital for women in aviation. Men have a number of role models and mentors that they can look up to, who can inspire and help shape the direction of their career – women not so much.
Becoming a professional pilot is a challenge; it involves lots of hard work, there are obstacles to overcome and it is a commitment to lifelong learning. It is completely normal for someone to feel unsure of whether they can succeed in that environment. If you think you are about to give up, you should give it your best effort, you may surprise yourself at what you can achieve!
See you in the air,