Female pilots: flying in the face of adversity

Skyline

I am a professional artist living in Godalming, Surrey, and I have created an art installation called Skylines. This features the names of 301 female aircraft pilots who, I believe, are true role models who can inspire others. As an artist I want to encourage dialogue about women’s opportunities and I am using Skylines to advocate for change in society. I would like this show to tour UK airports to raise awareness of women who fly for a living and to inspire other women to join this profession.

I started the project because two years ago I met a woman who told me she was a pilot. I did a double-take as I had never heard a woman’s voice from a cockpit nor seen female pilots featured in airline advertisements.

On researching the subject I found that the number of female pilots has hardly changed since the early pioneers of more than 100 years ago, despite Amelia Earhart and Amy Johnson gripping the public imagination with their record-breaking exploits in the 1920s and ’30s.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s statistics relating to pilot gender in July 2013 (which it believes are still accurate today) showed that of the 19,112 pilots flying commercially – this includes aeroplanes, helicopters and hot air balloons – less than five per cent (794) UK licences were held by women.

Further deep research eventually led to the artwork in my exhibition which features the names of more than half the women currently flying planes for UK companies and who were proud and willing to take part. It also prompted much fascinating observation from them.

One commented that she has never thought of herself as ‘a female pilot’ but simply ‘a pilot’. However, despite feeling that she was not unusual, she has come to realise that it is relatively rare for people to meet or be flown by a female pilot.

She said: “When I started flight training, I was told that only two per cent of the licence holders in the UK were female. Over the past decade I believe this number has increased to somewhere in the 3-5 per cent range. Out of a global commercial pilot workforce of around 130,000, it is estimated there are only around 450 female airline captains. I am proud to be part of this small number and hope that in time we will see more women joining us.”

Skylines is exhibiting for the first time at The Farnham Pottery, GU10 4QJ from 11-16 May 2015, 12-5pm. Some of the pilots will be attending the evening opening on 14 May, 6-8pm.

 

 

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Ros Burgin
Ros Burgin creates sculpture and installations through a variety of methods using found objects, images and material. A current area of investigation is the changing role of women in society.

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