In recent years, airlines have been stepping up their efforts to encourage women to take to the flight deck and become airline pilots. Despite this, women only comprise about 5-6% of pilots in the UK and worldwide, and similar percentages in general aviation according to British Women Pilots’ Association.   

Since 1992, Bristol Groundschool has seen hundreds of women study to become pilots including those who have won scholarships with the British Women Pilots’ Association and the Air League.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Bristol Groundschool contacted some of their female students to gain insights into their journey to becoming a pilot.

Firstly, they spoke to Hanna Kerr, First Officer for British Airways who explained what she enjoyed about Pilot Training, she said: “I’ll be honest, I found flying training really hard because it is hard. I did it myself when I was working as a full-time cabin crew and I didn’t have a group of peers for support. It was different for me to use my brain in a more scientific way when I’d done customer service my whole life until that point.

“When I saw myself being successful at exams and flying, that boosted me. It started to make me believe that so much was possible. The first time I went flying by myself I just couldn’t believe that I was doing that. I didn’t know anyone who had done that and most of the time I was the only girl on my courses. I loved flying around the UK on my hour building, seeing places I wouldn’t normally go to. I went to the very north of Scotland and the very tip of England and saw some amazing scenery.

“The best part was realising that I was capable of doing something like this. The little girl who went in the flight deck and didn’t believe she could do it would be so proud. I am so proud of myself and I want to be an advocate for those who don’t believe in themselves as proof that you can do hard things.”

They also asked Kerr how she found studying for her ATPL theory exams with Bristol Groundschool (BGS) and she said: “The support was fantastic. The ground school instructors were so knowledgeable and patient with me when I asked many questions and didn’t understand something. I would really recommend BGS to people. Doing it by yourself is hard but when I came for the study weeks and met other people it made me feel so much better. It was really nice to be around other people doing the same things and feeling the way you were. It was a really nice environment to study and I always looked forward to those weeks.”

Current BGS student Anna Yashchenko was asked: What advice she would give other women looking to become a pilot and she said: “Don’t hesitate, just give it a try! Taking action is the best way to dispel doubts. Visit a flying school or aeroclub nearby and try a few lessons. Reach out to pilots in your favourite airlines on LinkedIn to learn about their journey. Gathering practical information will help you make a decision.

“Becoming an airline pilot requires commitment, time, money, and responsibilities. However, there are also other roles in aviation and various ways to fly. Most importantly, there are many people who will support you in finding your path. Go, girl!”

Yashchenko now plans to complete her ATPL theory and pursue the required ratings, hours, and courses to secure her first job. 

Former BGS student Alicia Lisle was asked what advice she would give other women looking to become a pilot and she said: “There are significant barriers to entry, and you still hear ‘female pilot’ to remind you how few there are; don’t be put off.   We all encourage and support each other as it’s worth the effort and perseverance – you can do it, like so many inspirational women who have piloted aircraft before us.  And take time to go do some fun flying too!

“I’ve just passed my Commercial Pilot skills test, which felt like such a milestone!  In a few weeks, I should finish the Instrument rating and I will start learning how to operate jets as one of two pilots working together; it’s the culmination of a long but rewarding effort, and I’ll be looking for that crucial first job to build experience.”Sales CTA Aug 2023.png