They are called signing rooms. They are workspaces at airports where pilots and flight attendants meet before starting their work day. Curiously, these groups do not usually refer to their task as “going to work” but rather define it as “going to fly”. In signatures, the flights are prepared, both in the technical aspect and in that of service on board and security. Then, these professionals transfer to the plane of their flight with a vehicle on the runway or by walking through the terminal.
If we look at a random entire crew during such trips, one can quickly draw a conclusion by distinguishing between their uniforms: TCP or cabin crew, a historically female profession, is now fairly gender-balanced. However, piloting remains a clearly masculine job position: in Europe, according to the Eurocockpit association, only 5% of women are commercial pilots on average. According to data from the airlines in Spain, the data is corroborated: of the Binter Canary Islands pilot staff, 4% are aviators. In Vueling this figure is 4.5%, in Iberia women are 6% of its pilots and the one that proportionally has more is Air Nostrum, with 7.5%.
“I wanted to be an aviator the first time I went to the United States as a child. I saw a female pilot talking on the phone in a booth at JFK. That uniform on her was a reference that I will not forget and I wish she knew that I became an aviator for her,” says Lourdes, who flies regional CRJ jets, mainly between the Balearic Islands, the peninsula and the Canary Islands. Lourdes believes that today there is no lack of references, but that it is a vocational issue. “It is not a matter of education, but of interest in this field. A few decades ago, perhaps it was seen as strange for a woman to work on something markedly masculine. Now I think it no longer makes sense to talk about it, ”she concludes.
In the same line is Savina. This aviator flies long-range airlines and crosses the Atlantic several times a month piloting an Airbus A330. “I would say that women pilots, both in my case and those I know, we like the fact of flying and in general perhaps we do not have as much passion for the technique itself, as I see it happen to them” she indicates. “I think it's the kind of life that allows you to be a pilot. We like the flight, the trip and I would say that even the romanticism that accompanies flying a plane beyond the mechanical. It is another way of understanding this profession”.
Both Savina and Lourdes agree that women are increasingly valued and accepted within the sector. They don't feel like strangers in this world, nor do they notice that they attract attention, either in the cockpit or at airports. They consider the stereotypes to be overcome, although the Airbus pilot reflects: "I think that being a homosexual man and a pilot is less normalized today than being a woman and a pilot," she says.
There is a sector of professional piloting that has nothing to do with that of the airlines, where fixed schedules and agreements order professional and personal life. Aerial work is a very different world, as Silvia, an experienced aviator specializing in large helicopters for firefighting, tells us.
“In Spain we are about 40 professional helicopter pilots and we basically dedicate ourselves to emergency tasks such as fires, medical transport or rescue. It is very, very vocational, although it is hard, ”he clarifies. “We like doing it, but not the working conditions: we have a minimum of 20 days away from home, sometimes more, and almost always at distant bases. There is no flexibility and the treatment of our group is becoming very dehumanized. These conditions do not make this profession attractive”, denounces this pilot, who sees family reconciliation as very complicated for both them and for them, although even more so in the case of women due to maternity.
“It is a very serious issue: 12-hour shifts with many days in a row, a lot of uncertainty… either the operators get their act together and improve our living conditions, or there will be a lack of pilots, whether they are women or men,” he points out.
In the learning part we found an exception in these percentages. We see it at EAS Barcelona, a benchmark in the training of new aviators, currently handling above-average figures. Between the three annual promotions and different modular courses, the school usually has 80 future pilots a year, although only one of its flight instructor staff is a woman "Among the different courses, this 2023 we have 30 women in our classrooms in Spain and Maldives, in addition to flying in our 16 aircraft from the Sabadell airport”, says Jorge, head of teaching at EAS.