Three Pilots On Being… (Female) Pilots

How cool are they?

It is amazing. Isn’t it? The view of earth from up above. The landscape: How chaos combine to form magnificence. How distance result in inactivity and muted sounds. How everything looks small and vulnerable, when seen from up above.

It is the privilege of a pilot’s view, to cover the sheer magic of our diversity, connected together and captured in frames. No. Not all at once. Only in fragments, because sometimes, below is an extraordinary burst of colour, patterns, light and architecture. Sometimes, it is lush vegetation and water. Other times it is just an expanse of clouded nothingness, which breeds the feeling of solitude in the Pilot. And all the Pilot knows, at that moment, is just this flying vessel, with a few people onboard, moving through a boundless space with wonder all around.

Over there is the sun, dangling ahead and burning fiercely, or hiding below an edge, with its golden-orange pouring in from the distance.

There is also a humbling spread of blue and black, in high definition, dotted with sparkles. And active puffs of smoke ready to exhibit its power.

I spoke with three phenomenal Pilots, and they told me the view is one of the coolest things about flying.

What’s also cool, they told me, is being trusted with the lives of others, alongside a pleasant remuneration, which includes the opportunity to travel far and wide.

Adeolu Dawodu: The benefits are good, but nothing beats the view. Plus you literally feel on top of the world. And you also receive thanks for getting your passengers to their destinations.

Adeolu Dawodu
Photo credit: Instagram/duchess_lulu
Janet Bunor
Photo credit: Instagram/janetbunor

Janet Bunor: (Yes and) Birds don’t fly as high as we do. At 33,000+ feet, we have a view like no other.

Grace Owoh:  For me, it is the honor of flying generations. You are responsible for all the lives in that vessel. You have to take them to their loved ones and business partners. You have to keep them safe.

Grace Owoh
Photo credit: Instagram/oohbe

That is why quality training is paramount to a career in air travel.

Adeolu Dawodu: I was trained In Canada. The training itself wasn’t difficult, but it was challenging. Generally, focus is the key to success in aviation. My two major highlights, during training, was taking my brother on a flight with me, and going on a 100nm flight in really bad weather with my instructor.

Janet Bunor: I was trained in South Africa and in America. The whole experience was lovely. I had so much fun and went on exciting adventures, which further propelled my desire to continue my training. Whilst, it came with lots of studying for the theoretical exams, the actual practical flying is fun but should never be taken for granted, because it can easily be an issue of life and death. Overall, training in South Africa gave me a chance to experience flying in almost every weather condition and how to plan accordingly.

Grace Owoh: My training was interesting. My first experience in training was crazy. I didn’t close the door properly and it opened on take-off. I was so scared and had to have another conversation with God. It takes a lot of perseverance and focus to succeed in aviation. It is very easy to lose focus when you’re independent and in a new town with a lot of money in your account. In flight school, you learn how to fly during private pilot license. And during your commercial pilot license, you learn how to fly multi-engine aircraft, and also get trained on how to handle emergencies like engine failure, fire etc. We go for training every 6months and we are drilled on any kind of airplane/flying emergency you can think of. It is always safety first, for us. So any time you fly have confidence in your pilot.

Irrespective of their gender, walk in believing that you will have a smooth ride to your destination.

Janet Bunor: Oh my God!!! I once had a passenger disembark after seeing me in the cockpit. I get a lot of compliments and praise for venturing into a male dominated field. And I have also gotten a lot of people who are scared and keep asking how it feels to fly as a woman. I tell them it feels same as flying as a man. It is a male-dominated field, so every woman stands out. And it looks like it is easier for men to grow in the industry, as people tend to think that women have hormonal issues. Or have difficulty “balancing work and family”. Or generally shouldn’t be flying. So women have to work harder to climb the ladder. Even though, the aircraft itself doesn’t know if you are male or female, nor respect the fact that you are. All it wants is for you to be in control of it.

Adeolu Dawodu: (Same) You meet some people and they are so proud to see you doing so good, they almost can’t believe it, that they take pictures. Then you meet some others, and they try to look down on you. There was one time my sister and I were walking towards security at an airport, and their first assumption of us was that we were stewardesses. We quickly corrected them. Still they couldn’t believe it. To be honest, no one should be shocked to see a woman in the cockpit. I mean there are female soldiers, boxers, doctors, wrestlers etc. Careers are not gender-specific. But sadly, the global number of female airline pilots is a mere 3%. So, it is such an honor to be a part of this.

Grace Owoh: Well, thankfully, I have been blessed to have good reactions. They’ve all been positive, mostly compliments and encouragements. I believe, people are becoming more open to female pilots. There’s this awe, excitement and a bit of fear when people see female pilots. I love that I’m making a significant mark, in showing that there are no limits to what you can achieve regardless of your gender.

Yeah, but femininity has its peculiarities.

Janet Bunor: …And I have been able to “do” womanhood and career without sacrificing one for the other. I am a woman and a pilot. Or a woman, who is a pilot. Or a pilot, who is a woman.

Grace Owoh: Of course. Pregnancy is peculiar to women. But in aviation, safety is first. Also, a few companies have no written policy (about the peculiarities of femininity), so they handle their pilots’ maternity issues on a case by case basis. Some companies ground you immediately you know you are pregnant. And you have to take up office work till later. I feel that is a long time on ground. I will like to see better contracts for women especially when it comes to maternity leave.

Adeolu Dawodu: I, actually, think it is my femininity that makes me good at my job. We have been trained to persevere so much in life that there isn’t anything we can’t achieve. I have the belief that the things we want to achieve are just a commitment away. Therefore, you can be feminine and also effective in your job. So, femininity should be welcomed. Welcome female leaders. And pay them as much as you’re paying their male colleagues.

I really have to repeat that, for every woman in the world, today.

“Pay them (us, women) as much as you are paying their (our) male colleagues.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for better clarity. And photos where taken from the respective Instagram handles of the subjects.

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