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L-R: A commercial plane taxiing; a woman is handed a diploma by a man, both in pilot uniform; a commercial plane landing.

Chloe McDermott, Alex Class of 2008, is an airline Captain. She has been flying with Ryanair for four years and was promoted to Captain this June. Globally, women make up approximately 5% of airline pilots. Aer Lingus has noted in recent years that only 7% of applicants to its Future Pilot Program are women. AlexPress spoke with Chloe this week about her experiences in aviation.

L-R: A commercial plane taxiing; a woman is handed a diploma by a man, both in pilot uniform; a commercial plane landing.

How did you become interested in aviation? 

My dad bought me a flying lesson in Weston airport after that we did a lot of research into how to become a pilot and what courses are available. I did my first ever flight in National Flight Centre in Weston airport and when I finished my training there I went on to work as a flight instructor teaching others to fly before I started flying in Ryanair.

How did your time at Alex influence your path? 

School is about more than learning how to read and write, it teaches us the social skills we need for our adult lives and careers. My time at Alex prepared me to join the workforce and develop a strong work ethic. I learned to develop abilities in areas like communication, teamwork, critical thinking and problem solving.

What has working in a male-dominated industry taught you about yourself?

I have learned that it’s good to be ambitious and do things that are out of the norm. There are opportunities for women everywhere in every industry and if you want a different role, or more responsibility, you need to go for it and back yourself. If you are well prepared, professional, and willing to work hard for what you want, you will be able to overcome the obstacles put in front of you.

How have you dealt with unconscious bias in the industry? Have you found advantages to being a woman in a male-dominated industry? 

I think unconscious bias is in every industry to some extent. Aviation is an industry with a variety of nationalities, cultures, races, personalities and genders, I fly with people from all corners of the world. I personally don’t see any difference between working with men or women. I think pilots should be employed based on their skill and ability and not their gender.

While working in Ryanair I have received nothing but support and encouragement from my male colleagues. At work I am treated as an equal and my gender has never been an issue. Outside of work people are sometimes still surprised when they find out my occupation, generally they assume when you say you work for an airline they think you are cabin crew. However most passengers seem happy when they find out there’s a female pilot up front.

How do you think the aviation industry could evolve to make the profession more gender balanced?

I’ve never felt that I’ve been treated differently by or to my male colleagues. If anything, it has all been mostly positive.

I would love to see more females in aviation and I do get a sense of pride when I fly with another female pilot and the passengers usually enjoy it too. The aviation industry has come a long way in recent years and there are more women in the industry now than ever before.

Although the ratio of female pilots is slowly increasing I feel that we could advance this further by regularly promoting flying as a career option to young girls who are interested.

What do you want girls interested in aviation to know about your job and experiences?

If you have the passion and drive, and love a challenge, then the rewards and sense of achievement are definitely worth it. Everyday is different, different crew, destination, good and bad weather, early and late shifts.

My career high to date was achieving my promotion to Captain this summer. Since day one of flight training the end goal is to eventually become an airline Captain and the feeling after the final check is something I’ll never forget.