In the Lufthansa cockpit 25 years on
300 female pilots now fly passengers around the world
“I’m not a trailblazer, simply a woman just loving her job,“ pointedly remarks Airline Captain Evi Hetzmannseder on her profession as an airline pilot. All the same, it was rather more of a bombshell when she and fellow female pilot Nicola Lisy began flying scheduled flights for Lufthansa on 23 August 1988. They had previously completed two years of training as commercial pilots successfully in Bremen and Phoenix/Arizona. Many other women have followed in their path since those pioneering days. Today, around 300 woman pilots work for Lufthansa: A good 80 of them are airline captains. However, females in the Lufthansa cockpit still account for only six per cent of the airline’s pilots. The reason is that many potential candidates mistakenly assume that the cockpit is no place for a woman. As a result, women still account for only 20 per cent or so of the applicants interested in flight training. Lufthansa takes every effort in order to change it for the better.
On her first flight with passengers aboard a Boeing 737, Evi Hetzmannseder still felt weak at the knees, she recalls. Unlike Nicola Lisy, who comes from a family of pilots, she had no familial links with the world of aviation. Be that as it may, she caught the bug about 30 years ago as she watched a plane coming in to land at Munich-Riem. “Up-front in a plane, that’s where I want to sit,” she decided and applied to Lufthansa. The first flight of her life took her to Hamburg for the aptitude test. Obtaining a pilot’s licence despite maternity was no hindrance to her career – she did additional simulator training on the course and the work/life balance was easily resolved by the offer of a part-time work model.
A major milestone for both female pilots, as for all in the profession, was acquiring the coveted fourth strip on their uniform: As the first women pilots trained at Lufthansa, Evi Hetzmannseder and Nicola Lisy moved over to the left into the captain’s seat in command of a Boeing 737 in the year 2000. Meantime, Evi Hetzmannseder is flying long-haul from Munich: “Seated in the cockpit of a huge jet, like the Airbus A340, is an awesome feeling.” Occasionally in her time-off, Evi enjoys playing “des-wenni-wissert“ and other traditional Bavarian folk music oldies in a trio on the accordeon.
In fact, women have a very long tradition in the history of flying. Raymonde de Laroche was the first woman to pilot an aircraft. She received her pilot‘s licence from the Aéro-Club of France on 8 March 1910. Marga von Etzdorf began piloting a commercial Junkers F13, named “Kiek in die Welt", on the Lufthansa flight deck on 1 February 1928.
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