Flying doesn't have to be 'a man's world'

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Date: 20th Aug 2018

A Buckinghamshire New University pilot training student is aiming to blaze a trail for women as she sets her sights on a career in the cockpit.

Fareeha Ahmed said, however, her gender meant she’d already been forced to overcome scepticism that she should even be pursuing the vocation.

Now the determined student is starting her second year studying BSc (Hons) Air Transport with Commercial Pilot Training, the next step towards her goal of taking to the skies in her ‘dream job’, and hopes to inspire other women to pursue the role.

Fareeha Ahmed
She said: “As far back as I can remember I have always had aviation in my blood and always known I wanted to be a pilot.

“Perhaps being a commercial pilot is what many would view as a typical boy’s dream job, up there with being a professional footballer, wrestler or rally car driver, but not me.”

Estimates from the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA) in 2015 suggested there were about 4,000 women pilots worldwide, equating to just three per cent of the total number.

Currently five per cent of the over 2,600 pilots employed by easyJet are female and women make up five to six per cent of its new entrant pilots. It plans to double the proportion of female new entrants to 12 per cent over the next two years.

Among its female pilots is Charlotte Sullivan, who also studied BSc (Hons) Air Transport with Commercial Pilot Training, graduating in 2016, and was among young pilots shown going through training in the ITV 1 programme easyJet: Inside the Cockpit last year.

Fareeha Ahmed with fellow Bucks pilot students
Fareeha added: “The ratio of male to female commercial pilots is a contemporary issue in the aviation industry.

“It is heavily discussed among professionals and academics and we are now witnessing many airlines introducing new strategies to recruit and retain more female pilots.

“When I was younger I remember the response from family and friends when I cheerfully announced my plans of being a pilot when I grow up.

“Throughout my teenage years I received a lot of negativity and awkward questions such as, ‘how will you raise a family when you are a pilot’, but this was the last thing on my mind at that age.

“Following these questions, I would receive comments and questions about surviving in a ‘man’s world’.

“Regardless of the negativity and failed attempts to steer me into what could be considered a more appropriate job for a woman I started my journey by looking into the various options into becoming a pilot, which led me to Bucks.”

Fareeha Ahmed
Fareeha has revelled in being thrown in at the deep end on her course at Bucks, studying for her Private Pilots Licence (PPL) theory exams, building up the hours she requires flying, as well as completing her classwork.

“The course has provided me with an invaluable insight into the aviation industry and developed me both professionally and academically,” added Fareeha.

“During my first year, I have completed many relevant and exciting modules which have looked at everything from the structure and development of the air transport industry, to airport operations and airline management.

“Airport operations gave me an excellent insight into how an airport functions and operates and airline management gave me the opportunity to develop a business plan for a new airline of my own, something which I massively enjoyed.

“I am one of a handful of women on the course but have never felt I was treated any differently to my peers. I am now excited about what’s to come in my second year.”

Fareeha said she would be happy to speak to other people looking to become commercial pilot and can be found on LinkedIn.

Sam Guest, Senior Lecturer in Aviation Management, said: “Fareeha is one of many talented women in aviation who come through the door at Bucks each year.

“She is an incredible example of hard work and motivation, two of the many skills and characteristics needed when starting out as a commercial pilot.

“I’ve had the privilege of teaching Fareeha throughout her first year at Bucks New University and have witnessed her greatly develop both professionally and academically.”

Graduates and industry professionals can also find out more about the new MSc International Aviation Regulation and Law.

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