Talk from alumna pilot leaves girls flying high

On Friday 20 April year 10-13 pupils were invited to hear from alumna, Olivia van Lieshout (nee Hudson), about her career as a pilot and the female pilot initiative operated by easyJet to increase their intake of female cadet pilots to 20% by 2020.

She began by showing an aerial video of all the flights in one average July day across Europe (that is 998 million miles flown!) and then talked the audience through the pathway from school to a pilot with 4 stripes. She clarified that you don’t need 20:20 vision nor an engineering background – simply 5 GCSEs and 2 A Levels before the indepth training – and then a test in the simulator every six months! We learnt about easyJet pilots’ favourite plane: the carrot and how an average day pans out as Captain of an airbus A320.

She walked us through the pre-flight checks including weather, equipment checks and the decision on how much fuel is required as well as the setting up of the flight deck and walk-around of the plane – including the importance of every latch and small dent as they can affect the drag of the aircraft, and how the number – and breakdown – of passengers affects the speed of the take-off and the necessary length of the runway.

Though she splits the flights with her first officer, she maintains responsibility for the safety of all those on board. Before every flight they brief each other on the minute detail of the take off and all potential scenarios and contingency plans. Even once the plane is in the air there is a great deal of flight management to monitor all the instruments and fuel consumption as well as the weather as even a small thunderstorm requires a wide berth and this affects other elements of the flight.

The girls got into the mindset of a pilot and completed a task scenario to decide which course of action they would take in the scenario of a passenger requiring emergency medical treatment, before the final Q&A session.

We learnt all about easyJet’s Amy Johnson initiative to address the gender imbalance in the pilot community and Olivia encouraged any girl who was thinking about training as a pilot to follow her ambition and hopefully help to raise the percentage of pilots who are women worldwide!

Thank you to Olivia for returning to talk to us and to Mrs Pett for coordinating the visit.

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