South Africa 10.8.2017 06:20 am

Sky’s the limit for female Boeing pilot

Denise Luppnow is flying a Boeing 737 as first officer in a male-dominated world.

Denise Luppnow is flying a Boeing 737 as first officer in a male-dominated world.

Denise Luppnow says the aviation industry is enjoying growth in numbers of women doing jobs historically associated with men.

Denise Luppnow knew when she was at high school she didn’t want to go into any job where she would have to “fly a desk”.

These days, her “office” is 10 000m in the sky and she doesn’t fly a desk, she flies a 55-ton twinjet Boeing 737.

As a first officer for and British Airways, Luppnow has made it in a world many believe is male-dominated.

The 33-year-old pilot says although it might appear the aviation industry is all about males, “I can definitely testify that women are moving into the industry”.

“There are quite a lot of women pilots out there and even the aviation engineering positions are starting to fill up with more ladies.”

But she admits: “The industry doesn’t come without its challenges and it’s a bit of a balancing act to have children at home and work the odd hours that we do.

“I take my hat off to the ladies that manage that. As females, we can operate in the aviation industry just like our male counterparts.”

Her typical working day starts about an hour before her first scheduled flight.

“[The flight crew] go through all the planning. We are then transported to the airport and start our preparation for the flight before we start boarding the passengers.

“There are no two days that are the same. We can do anything from a single flight to four flights a day. Our days can start as early as 4.45am and some days only end at midnight.”

After growing up in mine villages in Mpumalanga – her parents were employed in the coal mine industry – she wrote matric in 2002 and decided to fly.

Her training – first as a private pilot and eventually as a corporate pilot for a mining company before joining Comair in 2010 – was privately funded.

When it came to romance, she stayed in the industry, marrying Graham, an air-traffic controller.

Luppnow is living her dream: “I can’t think of a better way to see our beautiful country than from the sky.” –

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