Sally Allmark is a fATPL holder working as a Flight Instructor at a commercial ATO.
I’ve always been inspired by my dad. As a PPL holder, paragliding instructor, and hang glider pilot, he imbued me with the joy of flight from a young age. He also gave me respect for pilots of all kind – no matter their background, no matter their aircraft of choice. There’s a commonality and camaraderie between all of us who yearn for the skies, and my training and career in aviation has really cemented this idea.
The start of my training was full of self-doubt and uncertainty. Like many other women stepping into aviation, I felt I was almost under a spotlight — any mistake I made might help reinforce a negative stereotype, as if I was letting the side down just by being human. You soon realise that you cannot carry this baggage with you. In order to succeed, you must push beyond your own insecurities, your fears of not being good enough, and the statistics that glare you dead in the face. Rather than worrying about being in the minority, it was time to add another tally to that count of female pilots. My self-doubt soon turned to determination; the women around me, at every stage of their journeys, inspired me, and I hoped that maybe I’d be able to give somebody else that boost, just by being visible, determined, and optimistic.
Some of my favourite memories of training are flying a dinky DA20 around the stunning sites of New Zealand. On my first solo, I was congratulated by an Air New Zealand pilot who was patiently waiting for me to vacate the runway before he lined up in his ATR. Another time, I was practising glide approaches when a female air traffic controller remarked, ‘that was an absolute beauty!’ These little instances of humanity helped me feel like I belonged, that I was good enough, that I was going to make it. I think it is vitally important that we are supportive and complimentary of those around us — a few positive words can have a profound impact on somebody’s confidence. And that confidence, if appropriately regulated and applied, breeds success.
One day I hope to work in a multi-crew environment on the flight deck of a passenger aircraft. But for the time-being, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to guide new students through the fundamentals of flight as an instructor. I have the privilege of sharing the joy with others that my dad shared with me; I have the privilege of helping develop students’ confidence in their own ability; and I have the privilege of making a positive impact in the journeys of many future pilots.
For those aspiring to reach for the skies, my advice is to give it everything you’ve got — but know that that also means giving to those around you, for we rarely succeed alone.