Home » Women in STEM » Dedication is more important than gender in aviation

Rachel Cull

First Officer, Aer Lingus
Pictured: Aer Lingus partners with Irish Girl Guides for the STEM Aviation badge

Becoming a commercial airline pilot is challenging and exciting in equal measure – no matter what your gender.

Aviation is still something of a male-dominated field, but more women are earning their wings and taking to the skies.

Rachel Cull, First Officer with Aer Lingus, tells us why she always wanted to be a pilot and explains her own journey to 30,000 feet.

It’s never too late to change your career path

I actually studied economics at university and then worked in finance, but it was always in the back of my head that I wanted to be a pilot. Aged 24, and considering my long term career path, I decided that flying was my goal and applied for the Aer Lingus Future Pilot Programme.

On my second attempt, I was lucky enough to secure a place on the Aer Lingus Future Pilot Programme, which really is like a golden ticket in aviation.

After completing flight school in Jerez, Spain, I came back to Dublin for a type rating on the A320. This summer, I will have been flying as a commercial pilot for two years. It has passed in the blink of an eye. 

“My advice to anyone who wants to apply to the Future Pilot Programme this year is to not worry about your background.”

Learning to fly from the ground up is challenging, testing and enjoyable all at the same time. I remember the sweat pouring off me from the combination of the Spanish sun, my nerves and determination when I did my first my first solo flight.

From that to my first flight on the twin engine DA42, then sitting in the A320 simulator in Dublin – things progressed so much in such a short space of time.

Flying in the busy airspace above Europe was another huge learning curve, but you are constantly learning in this job.

And when you are flying down the Croatian coastline over the blue seas, or you catch a glimpse of the beauty around you as you approach Nice airport, you remember that you are sitting in a very special seat.

I actually studied economics at university and then worked in finance, but it was always in the back of my head that I wanted to be a pilot.

Ability over gender

Aviation is still a male-dominated industry, but I never thought I couldn’t be a pilot because I’m female. From speaking to people in the industry, I found that it was nothing to do with gender, rather, your own personal skills and abilities.

Aer Lingus like many other airlines recognise that in order to expand the talent pools of individuals applying they need more females involved. They make a conscious effort to include females in their marketing campaigns and promotions to aid the visibility of women in the industry.

When I was at flight school, they re-launched the Los Angeles route with a video showing the all female flight deck. Seeing these women carrying out the roles I hoped to do soon was great motivation to keep studying.

My advice to anyone who wants to apply to the Aer Lingus Future Pilot Programme is to be confident in their own personal skillset, irrespective of educational background or previous experience in the aviation industry. A willingness and aptitude to learn goes a long way.

Would you like to join a really great team at Aer Lingus? A team which has been connecting Ireland with the globe for over 80 years.

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