Black Immigrant Daily News
When an Air Canada flight AC966 landed in Barbados on November 2 from Toronto with an all-female crew, the story went viral for the rarity of the occurrence.
Subsequently, Loop reached out to The International Society of Women Airline Pilots to find out just how unique that event was and to find out more about women who fly, while encouraging young girls to let the sky be their limit literally and figuratively.
It only happens for me about once a year
We chatted with a Boeing 737 pilot for a major airline in the US, Erin Jackson, and she actually volunteers as the Communications Director for The International Society of Women Airline Pilots.
Tell me a bit about your career and how you got into the Society?
“I attended Southern Illinois University to study Aviation Flight and Aviation Management. Upon graduation with my Bachelor’s degree, I flight instructed for a few years, then started working for a regional airline, flying smaller jets, and eventually worked my way up to a major airline.
“A pilot friend of mine told me about The International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA+21), so I became a member and attended their yearly conference at the ISA+21 40th anniversary conference in 2018. I loved the camaraderie and connection I found with the other female airline pilots in the group, and was also fascinated and impressed with the rich history of ISA+21, which was founded in 1978 with 21 charter members.”
Told about the flight that landed at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) that Wednesday afternoon in November around 1 pm last year, we asked Erin if seeing all-female crews still have an impact on her.
With a big grin, she said, “It warms my heart to see all-female crews, and also to be a part of them! It only happens for me about once a year. I hope it eventually becomes more the norm and not just the exception!”
Well, with her admitting the infrequency of it, even for herself, she was not surprised at the reaction of the public or Loop readers. In fact, she said, “I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s still so rare. Also, when you look at the history of women in the field, there were so many barriers to overcome by those that came before us to make it happen.” The story on Loop got over 19,000 views from over 15,000 users in just a couple of days.
So, how many members does the Society have at present?
“We currently have almost 1,000 female airline pilot members all over the world. Additionally, we recently created an “Aspiring” level of membership, where young ladies aspiring to be Airline pilots can connect with ISA+21 and receive scholarship information and newsletters. We have about 300 aspiring members.”
Hearing about scholarships piqued our interest on behalf of young Bajan girls and other girls across the Caribbean region who may be thinking about this career path.
ISA+21 has yearly scholarships for aspiring female airline pilots
Therefore, we sought to get some more details for our young readers who have their dreams situated way up in the clouds. What is the role of the Society?
“Our mission is to be the global voice to Inspire, Support, and Advocate for female airline pilots. We meet yearly at a different location around the world to connect with each other, have our business meetings, and share our stories with the local media and it’s when we take a group picture of all of us in uniform.
“It really is so inspiring to have that many female airline pilots gathered in one place in full uniform! Our 2022 conference was in Dublin, and the ISA+21 group photo was featured in the Dublin Times as “photo of the day”. We also host a silent auction at our conference, which is one of the largest fundraisers for the ISA+21 scholarship fund. We have awarded over $1.5 million USD to ladies around the world aspiring to be airline pilots.”
ISA+21 female pilots
As one who has flown through the glass ceiling of sorts, Loop asked Erin to share three pieces of advice for young girls who are now making career choices.
“If you’re considering becoming a pilot, you have chosen an amazing career field with many great rewards! It takes hard work and determination, but it makes the rewards even all the more great. There are many resources out there, not just monetary but also support and mentorship. I mentor several young ladies, and I always encourage them to “utilize all available resources” like we do in the flight deck, and plug in to Aviation groups, ask questions, attend Aviation events.
So get out there and join groups like ISA+21 and get connected!”
How do students qualify for scholarship though?
“ISA+21 has yearly scholarships for aspiring female airline pilots through our website isa21.org/scholarship. The window will re-open for this year’s recipients in summer. The main goal through our scholarships is to help women reach their final goals as they are nearing the airline pilot level, so we award advanced certificates, and also a Boeing 737-type rating. There are other resources out there like Women in Aviation, that offer scholarships for earlier in training.”
And for those who are already in the industry and wish to join the Society, Erin advised, “They can simply go to the ISA+21 website (isa21.org) and fill out the membership info. We also have a Support level of membership, so if someone isn’t a female airline pilot, they can still support our mission!”