Asia’s airlines ‘forced’ to seek more women pilots


Pictured: First Officer Sophia Kuo inside the cockpit of an EVA Airways Boeing 747

According to a recent report from John Boudreau, Bloomberg, airlines in Asia are being ‘forced’ to seek female pilots to combat the rapid escalation in air travel in Asia which may leave the industry ‘desperately short of pilots’.

According to Malaysian Flying Academy’s Stephen Terry, the school’s principal, “Some carriers in Asia won’t even consider hiring women pilots,” while Boeing’s VP flight services, Sherry Cabary, has stated, “There is such an enormous demand to meet the growth that the gender bias will have to be pushed aside.”

More than eight decades after Amelia Earhart’s solo flight across the Atlantic, Boudreau writes, First Officer Sophia Kuo says she still hears the whispers as she walks through international airports in her EVA Airways Corp. pilot’s uniform: “‘Wow, we have female pilots.’ ‘How does she fly an airplane?’ ‘She must be really smart!”’

But women like Kuo, a 35-year-old pilot on the Taiwanese carrier’s Boeing 747s, remain the exception in the cockpit. Only about 5 percent of pilots globally are female, according to Liz Jennings Clark, chairwoman of the International Society of Women Airline Pilots. And just “a tiny” percentage of them are captains.

Now, airlines are being forced to balance the scale because a rapid escalation in air travel in Asia may leave the industry desperately short of pilots. The region is transporting 100 million new passengers every year, said Sherry Carbary, vice president of flight services for Boeing Co., which assists airlines in training new pilots. To fly all those aspiring new middle class, Asia is going to need another 226,000 pilots in the next two decades, according to Boeing. “There is such an enormous demand to meet the growth that the gender bias will have to be pushed aside,” Carbary said.

Some carriers are trying.

Vietnam Airlines Corp., based in what the International Air Transport Association forecasts will be one of the world’s 10 fastest-growing aviation markets, is creating work schedules that take into account demands of family life. UK-based easyJet Plc has set up a scholarship with the British Women Pilots Association to underwrite the costs of training women pilots. Recruitment advertisements increasingly feature women. British Airways Plc has a photo of a female pilot on its hiring website, while EVA Air, which has about 50 women among its 1,200 pilots, has recruited from universities in Taiwan with ads showing Kuo.

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