17 March 2011

The Pilot Mum talks

Remember my blog about the Pilot Mum and my flying neurosis? Well, I did stalk her in the end and here is the promised interview. The Pilot Mum has been flying for more than 21 years for a major airline (I’ll leave you to guess which one). She also has two beautiful boys aged four and six. Here’s an insight into how she juggles the demands of her chosen career with motherhood.

M: How did you start flying?
PM: I had my first flying lesson when I was 17 years old, through the Scout Association in NZ. I had a cool old instructor who was an ex WWII pilot. While he may have shown a concerning willingness to shoot one or two things from the sky, I managed to get over it and have to say that I was hooked from the start.

M: When did you realise you wanted to fly?
PM: I certainly didn’t grow up dreaming of flying. My bedroom posters were more David Soul than the Wright Brothers. And it wasn’t exactly a career that was offered at the careers evenings at my all-girls school either. But after that first taste of taking to the skies there was no looking back.

M: How on earth do you juggle motherhood with being a pilot?
PM: When I first went back to work it was a struggle. I wasn’t allowed to work part-time and it was difficult to find a nanny who could fit in with my roster. When the nanny calls at 7.00am to tell you she’s stuck in her bathroom and you have 250 testy passengers waiting for you at the airport, the mind begins to look for alternative options. Now we have an au pair living at home with us, which works really well with the strange start and finish times. I never have to worry if I’m delayed – there is always someone home with the boys. And most importantly I have an incredibly supportive husband.

M: Does your airline do anything to encourage or support Pilot Mums?
PM: When I wasn’t able to work part-time it caused a lot of frustration. Despite my request for help, it wasn’t forthcoming. So I took matters into my own hands and got pregnant again. Now that there is a legal requirement for employers to provide part-time work for primary carers the problem has gone away. I work a 70 per cent roster, which means I can take my kids to school and pick them up most days. I’m away from home about five (blissful, sleep-filled) nights a month. So, to answer the question, the airline fulfils its legal obligations, but I wouldn’t say they encourage mums.

M: Are there many Pilot Mums at your airline?
PM: Yes, there are few now, although there had only been a couple when I went back to work after having my first son. On the rare occasions we work together, the flight deck conversations are unique!

M: Do you take your boys flying?
PM: Not yet. But I’m looking forward to it. They spent the first three years of their life thinking Mummy was a “pirate” instead of a “pilot”, so I hope I don’t disappoint them! That said, since September 11, flight decks have become such a tightly secured place I won’t ever have the chance to take them on the flight deck while we’re up in the air (“good news” I hear you cry!). It does give me a tinge of sadness that the boys will never see their mum in action.

M: What would you say to your boys if they said they wanted be pilots?
PM: I would encourage anything they were passionate about…unless they wanted to be pirates.

M: Finally, what reassurance can you give us Neurotic Nervous Nellies?
PM: Firstly you are not alone – there are so many nervous flyers, it’s really common. As you know it’s all about not being in control, so the best thing is to educate yourself as much as possible. Find out what all the noises are (yes, you can ask me!). The planes are designed to withstand pressure that they will never encounter in normal flight. If you are really interested, check this out this youtube video of the Boeing 777 certification testing. So the little bumps of turbulence that you feel on most flights are nothing compared to that!

This is the first interview in my new Amazing Mums section. If you know an amazing mum, or dad for that matter (maybe I need to rename this section? People I Stalk perhaps?) let me know so I can stalk them too!


  1. owh wow! Interesting insight to a profession that is mainly dominated by men!

    Well done!