This year's Women in Aviation and Aerospace Committee's (WAAC) annual conference explored the topics of continued professional development and mentoring. Delegates had the opportunity to hear from inspirational leaders from a wide range of sectors of the aerospace industry discuss their personal experiences of professional development and the journeys that led them to their current positions.

Following a similar theme, RAeS Member Gerard Murphy has written a special report from the 2014 Farnborough Air Show looking at inspirational stories of women in aviation.

A Special Report from the Farnborough Air Show 14th to 18th July 2014, for the Ladies.

July’s Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) had much to interest ladies in aviation and those seeking such careers, particularly in the British examples of achievement by relatively young women.

Airbus were of course present and require female engineers, now and in the future.

Airbus Group
The main European presence was Airbus in Group form, replacing the old EADS. Now representing not just the commercial aircraft arm but including 3 groups:
- The traditional “Airbus”
- Airbus Defence and Space.  Itself a merger of Cassidian, Astrium and Airbus Military
- Airbus Helicopters

Taken on a worldwide basis 17% of Airbus employees and 21% of recruits in 2013 were women.  Recruiting more women is a priority. By 2020, Airbus Group wants women to make up 25% of all recruits and 20% of the senior manager and executive community. 

An example is Abbie Hutty of AD&S, a 28 year old space engineer working on the structure of the ‘Mars Rover’ as part of ESA’s ExoMars mission 2018.



Photo source: AS&D                                     Photo source: Surrey University

Airbus Group is working proactively with schools and institutions to enhance opportunities and encourage women to discover the world of aeronautical engineering. They have existing partnerships with a number of associations such as Women in Aerospace Europe (WIAE).

In North Germany the Group organises “Girls Days” at their key sites: Hamburg, Bremen, Stade and Buxtehude. Hamburg offers their female apprentices (from 17 to 23 years-old) the opportunity to learn to fly a light aircraft, during a 2 week-session in Juist Island. Airbus has also launched an internship programme in Hamburg and Bremen for girls from 14 to 16 years-old to have the possibility to join the company for 2 weeks in order to discover the aerospace industry.

Something for Filton to consider?

A further impressive example in Airbus of female success is Isabelle de Montent-Guerin. Not only is she a test pilot for Airbus in Hamburg, but their youngest at just 32, and the first British woman in this role at Airbus. (they also have a French female test pilot)

Photo source: Airbus

It may even be that Isabelle is the first British female test pilot, in recent memory. When she went to the very male world of the Empire Test Pilot School (ETPS) to study, they were convinced she is either the only, or one of the very few. The British ETPS at Boscombe Down is one of the premier test pilots centres in the world.

For further information contact: in Toulouse. Manager HR relations.

New model and orders

The primary news item from Airbus on the opening day was the official launch of the A330neo, a much upgraded version of their very successful A330 family. The neo version: ‘new engine option’, will have more fuel efficient engines, aerodynamic improvements to the wing and up to 10 extra seats. Hence the 330s will remain a mainstay of the World’s long haul fleets during the working lifetimes of most readers.

For those with a commercial or business interest, the results by Friday 18th for orders by type were, for a total value of $75 bn:

A320 - 27
A321 - 19
A320 neo - 217
A321 neo - 100
A330 - 8
A330 neo - 121
A350 XBW - 4
(Neos alone, 438 orders)

Austrian Aircraft and Pilot Training
Diamond Aircraft Industries of Wien-Neustadt is the undisputed star of the Austrian aviation industry and has a successful world-wide reputation. Not least because of its flagship DA42 family of aircraft: Twinstar, NG, VI, trainers, tourers and numerous special editions for surveillance.

Their piston engines are best known for being fuelled by JET-A1 AVTUR in place of AVGAS giving a huge advantage in economics. For those girls who go into professional pilot training there is a more than 50% chance your twin /IR rating element will be conducted in a DA42. Numerous flight schools in England use Diamond trainers in their fleets.
DAI offers numerous internships to college students and I am told half their sales force are women.

To find out more go to

Further views and successes from England
BAE Systems
I was given a briefing by senior ladies of BAE on how the gender question works in their company. Mentoring of young women is carried out extensively by seniors of either gender. On an ongoing basis, the women themselves come together or remain in contact through small informal networks. 

It was emphasised that today there are no job paths that are still ‘boys-only’ or impractical for females in BAE and any young woman can be whatever she is capable of. BAE said there is strong evidence that a diverse workforce bringing different people together actually improves business performance (compared to an old style male dominated company). When pressed they told me the key quality needed by young women in the early years was “resilience” to overcome any in-built bias.

Gemma Dore, ETPS
Another female success in the world of Test pilots. Like Isabelle (above) Gemma went to the British Empire Test Pilots School at Boscombe Down. Ms Dore is a Flight Test Engineer graduate of the class of 2010.


Gemma stands in-front of her “office”; a Chinook helicopter. Photo source: QinetiQ.

Gabriella Sommerville CEO ConnectJets
Is also the founder of this private business jet charter and sales broker, based in W London. Ms Sommerville signed an exclusive dealership for the Italian twin engine turboprop from Piaggio, at Farnborough.


Photo source: FlightGlobal

30% Club
This club was initiated for women in all mainstream professions and whose goal is for more females at director and board level. Like BAE they have a mentoring scheme, says Helena Morrissey founder of the 30% Club. The initiative is targeted at women in the ‘danger-zone’ between 28 and 38 when starting a family becomes a major influence and men at a similar career stage overtake them.

The 30% Club was launched in 2010 (only for the UK) with a goal of 30% women on the FTSE 100 board of directors by 2015.


USA girl and a Swiss aircraft
The days prior to the start of FIA saw the end of a remarkable tale in which a young lady landed in Oakland California on Friday 11th July after a two week around-the-world flight.
31 year old Amelia Rose Earhart sought to recreate the original Amelia Mary Earhart’s flight by flying a Pilatus PC-12NG single handed, tracing basically the same general route of her namesake in 1937.


N58NG the Swiss PC-12NG flow by Amelia Rose Earhart.  photo source: The Amelia Project.

Image source: The Amelia Project.

The route taken in June/July 2014 included 10 of the same places that Amelia Earhart visited in 1937 and comprised of a total of 17 stops in 14 countries.

Photo source: The Amelia Project.

Amelia Rose Earhart is the youngest female to ever to circumnavigate the globe in a single-engine aircraft.  She was accompanied by a safety pilot and assistant navigator from Pilatus, but we are assured that Amelia Rose did all of the hands on flying herself.


Amelia Rose in the captain’s seat, clearly showing the glass-cockpit Primus-Apex integrated flight deck from Honeywell.  Photo source: The Amelia Project.

Ms Earhart’s intention apart from commemorating her predecessor, is to inspire teenage girls and support their wishes to fly, with scholarships.  Much more about this trip can be found on the internet.

Want to be an Astronaut ?
For those girls with an even ‘higher’ ambition, the ESA stand was celebrating the 50th year of European cooperation in space. In 1964 the conventions of ELDO for launchers, notably Europa F1 and ESRO for science, entered into force.

An outstanding summary both historical and current can also be found on 50 years of women in space in the ESA ‘bulletin’ number 154 of May 2013. It begins with Tereshkova’s flight in Vostok 6 during June 1963 up to Liu Yang, the first Chinese ‘Taikonaut’ exactly 49 years later.

This November will see the third West European woman in space in the form of Italy’s Samantha Cristoforetti. (the first being Briton Helen Sharman back in 1991).


April 2010, STS 131 docked with the ISS enabling four women at one time to be in orbit. Photo source: NASA.

Eileen Collins, the first female Shuttle pilot 1995 and first female Shuttle commander 1999. Photo source: NASA.

For the full story click here, go to ‘read online’ and pages 3 to 11.

As this report was being researched, MH17 was shot-down late on the 4th day of the show. Included among the victims was one 24 year old Fatima Dyczynski, an aerospace engineer from Delft University (NL).  She too had high ambitions including the reports say, Astronaut.

This simple report is dedicated to her dream.


About the author: Europa Ingenieur (Eur Ing) Gerard Murphy MSc CEng MRAeS
Formerly BAe, CAA, Airbus & Lufthansa.


The author undergoing ground instructor training in a B787 simulator.

Conference and Events Department
12 November 2014