Why are There No More Women Pilots in Australia?

10th Mar 2017

Where some see only a problem, Qantas sees an opportunity. The biggest airline in Australia is facing a shortage of both pilots and maintenance engineers and in order to fill those positions, it has decided to turn to women.

At the moment, below 5 per cent of all licensed pilots (male and female) in Australia are women. Per the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the number of licensed pilots in Australia has stayed at 7400, even though predictions say that another 245,000 will be needed by 2035 in the Asia-Pacific region. For Qantas, this is a big opportunity to expand and improve its brand.

Speaking about this, one Qantas spokeswoman said:

"Qantas believes that diversity is the key to success and inspiring more women to explore careers in aviation will open the industry up to a broader pool of talent. A more diverse workforce means more diverse approaches to leadership, greater knowledge and broader skill sets, ultimately driving greater innovation in the industry."

Right now, she said, a number of seminars are being held in Australia, with the goal of inspiring young women to pursue a career in civil aviation and become pilots or engineers. At one such seminar, held in Brisbane, Haidee Wong, Qantas Boeing 737 pilot said:

"We are not judged by what we look like or who we are ?it's about how you fly- your competency. If you begin to slip and slide and get a bit lazy, someone will pull you up on that."

According to Neil Hansford, Aviation Consultant, there is no shortage of women looking to become pilots, but training opportunities for them could be better. There are, Mr. Hanford said, a lot of overseas students, especially from India and China, who attend these training courses. Once they finish them, they return home to work for airlines in their countries.

Mr. Hanford said:

"If they train in their own countries, the licenses they achieve don't have the international recognition of an Australian license. The other issue for our students is the cost. What other profession requires someone's to spend up to $150,000 on qualifying and then go into a $40,000 a year job?"

That the cost is off-putting to many candidates agrees the president of the Australian and International Pilot Association Captain Murray Butt, who said:

"It's not that attractive to meet the expectations of the younger generation. Most want to reach a reasonable income within a reasonable time frame and that can be difficult to achieve with a $100,000 debt."