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4% of Pilots are Women, and other fun facts shared by a modern “Lady Pilot”
by Katy Rank Lev

Hello from the Flight Deck: An Interview with First Officer Stacy Chapman

Stacy Chapman has been flying planes since 2002.

KRL: Are there many women working as pilots?

SC: In my unit fr the Air National Guard, there are 4 female pilots out of about 40 or 50 pilots total.

KRL: It looks like only about 4% of pilots are women.

SC:  You’d be shocked by how many people are shocked to see me in my uniform in the airport.

KRL: Tell us what made you become a pilot.

SC: It just happened. In college I wanted to do something different and be part of something bigger, but I didn’t know what that meant. I was in Air Force ROTC and another cadet had wanted to be a pilot her entire life…but she failed the sitting height test. You have to meet certain height requirements both standing and sitting. Anyway, after that she really insisted that I go and take the test. I thought, why not? I passed all the physical requirements and got a pilot slot by my senior year.

KRL: What’s your day like at work?

SC: I wake up really early–2am–and I check over the plane and go fly anywhere from 2 to 5 legs per day. I work 3 days in a row and then am home for 4 days. We bid on our schedule a month in advance and it goes by seniority. I have pretty high seniority now, so there’s a lot of flexibility for me.

KRL: What’s it like up there in the cockpit?

SC: Ugh! The dryness–it’s from the altitude as much as anything else. I get bloody noses a lot. I always have tissues and lotion. The sun is also an issue for me. I always forget sunblock.

KRL: You’re a redhead and you forget sunblock?

SC: I always forget that my arms are exposed. We can’t pull the sun shades down up there!

KRL: At least it doesn’t smell like farts.

SC: I actually didn’t know it smelled like farts in the cabin. My husband told me that! There are only 2 of us up in the cockpit, and we just met that morning. We’re about to spend 3 days together. He’s not going to fart.

KRL: So you and your husband connect by talking about farts

SC: We text a lot. I can’t always talk in between flights. We have to work to actually get to talk on the phone. I learned it’s important to actually talk, even though he’s at work and I want to be asleep.

You don’t think 3 days is a long time to go without talking, but when it’s every week, you really lose your connection with each other.

I arranged my schedule so that he and I are (for the most part) sleeping and working at the same time. When we had flipped schedules we would go days without talking. It was bad. When I am home, we are very deliberate about spending time together. We run errands together, go to shows. We love to go to dinner theater. When I get back, we make it a point to spend that entire first day together.

KRL: And you’re about to be deployed…

SC: It’s hard. When I’m gone for a long time, we will video chat every few days. Time zones are obviously an issue, but we make it a priority to just tell each other about our day.

KRL: Which includes farts.

SC: In the military, it’s hilarious to fart.

KRL: Any advice for other women whose job takes them away from home each week?

SC: I’m still figuring things out. Talk to people, other women especially. Ask questions from people who have been doing it a long time–I didn’t do that in the beginning. My job is demanding and difficult, but it’s an exciting and very rewarding career.

It’s worth all the effort.

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