Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate this special day of the year, SIMAERO met 5 women working in commercial aviation to share their journeys into and throughout the industry…

INTERVIEW N°5 – Saturday, March 12, 2022

Sarra AKLIL – Flight Simulator Engineer at Simaero Paris Roissy Training Center

Could you tell us a little about your background ?

My name is Sarra, I am 24 years old and I am a Flight Simulator Engineer at SIMAERO.

I am a Graduate with a DUT in Electrical Engineering, Industrial Computer Science followed by an EAS (Aeronautical Space Equipment Degree), an initiation patent in aeronautics and have undergone a few learning flights to better understand the industry and its environment.

Why did you choose this profession ?

I chose the profession of a Flight Simulator Technician because the Aeronautical Industry has fascinated me since my childhood(through my father who is an Aeronautical Engineer), but also the feeling of being useful in an environment that I have always dreamt of integrating. It allowed me to develop skills that I could not have acquired within the framework of my training alone.

Can you describe a typical day at Simaero ?

Our job is first of all to ensure the proper functioning of the simulator on a daily basis, then in the event of a breakdown, to detect and analyze anomalies and then to repair them, but we also manage and recommission maintenance equipment and simulation equipment.

Some simulators can have different configurations, so we also take care of configuration changes and for that you need to have a good knowledge of the flight simulator system and a mastery of electronic and computer systems.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far ?

The most memorable moments for me were during my training for the BIA (French certificate of Initiation to the Aeronautical Industry) and the flights I flew as part of the training.

What message would you like to send to all women ?

Whilst it’s true that the job of an airline pilot is a childhood dream for many, it’s important to make this dream become a reality, and this isn’t as difficult as most people think. There’s no real secret, you just have to work regularly and be independent.

I think that academic and personal success has a big role in life, you have to commit fully to what you do and to take full advantage of the experiences that life offers you.

INTERVIEW N°4 – Friday March 11, 2022

Fusia REBAI – Boeing 737 First Officer at ASL Airlines France

Why did you choose this profession ?

I always wanted to do this job for several reasons. It matches my personality. There is no monotony in this role, you’re challenged and have to ask yourself and think a lot about the decisions you are taking. It’s a profession that requires great intellectual honesty. A good pilot must remain humble but above all have a good understanding of the human aspect (communication, etc.)

Knowledge is endless. Even with many years of experience, we still learn new things every day.

Could you tell us a little about your background ?

After a few years at university studying Medicine, I decided to change my career path towards aviation. I started in 1995 as a cabin attendant at Air France, where I worked for 19 years. During this time, I passed my Airline Pilot certificates, my Private then Commercial Pilot’s License and finally my type rating on Boeing 737. I worked for 2 years at Royal Air Maroc on Boeing 737, then for one summer at Air Mediterranée on the same aircraft type. Subsequently, I worked in Africa (Ivory Coast) for 4 years on Dash 8 Q400. Finally, I returned to France in 2018 and was hired by ASL Airlines France, where I work today.

Can you describe a typical day at ASL Airlines ?

It is difficult to describe a typical day at ASL because we carry out cargo flights as well as passenger flights.

Cargo flights are physically very demanding, we have a take-off at 4am, so it’s a wake-up call at 01:30 to be at the airport 1hr30 before the flight departs. Normally, we arrive at the airport 1hr30 before departure for passenger flights, and 1hr before departure for cargo flights (except for some Cargo customer’s flights).

We carry out a briefing: we analyse the weather, the particularities of the airports (NOTAMs) the particularities of the plane, etc. We decide on the quantity of fuel according to the weather and the load of the day.

We must be on the plane 1 hour before take-off. There, we prepare the plane and fill in the necessary papers for the flight.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far ?

The event that marked me the most was my first flight. I was very concentrated and did not realize right away that this was the real thing, I was the one flying! I felt like I was in the simulator. Only when the passengers disembarked was I really impressed that I had been transporting so many people on a real flight. It was a very emotional moment for me.

What message would you like to send to all women ? 

The advice I would give to girls and women is to do what they really want to do, without taking into account the thoughts of others, which can be sometimes discouraging or even misogynist. You have to believe in yourself and believe in your dream to be able to succeed and attain it.

INTERVIEW N°3 – Thursday March 10, 2022

Neshat JAHANDARI – MD80 Captain at Zagros Airlines

Why did you choose this profession ? 

My interest in flying and airplanes appeared when I was traveling by plane with my family when I was two or three years old. The following years, at the age of four or five, I was attracted to airplane model toys. There was a big passenger plane and I imagined myself as its pilot.

Could you tell us a little about your background? 

When I was about 14 years old, I had my first pilot experience with ultralight aircraft, then I went to aviation high school and got my aviation diploma.

In Iran, at the age of 17, I started studying Commercial flying. Then I got all the relevant licenses.

I also studied as a Bachelor of Aviation Technology Engineer at university, and after completing my flying school, I also obtained my Flight Dispatch Certificate.

My husband and I also got ultralight flight licenses after we became captains so we could enjoy recreation flights with each other.

Can you describe a typical day at Zagros Airlines ?

No day is typical for me because my flight schedule is changeable. Sometimes I have early morning flights, sometimes at noon or late at night, so I plan every day according to the flights ahead.

Because my husband and I are both flying at Zagros Airlines as MD80 Captains, if we are both at home, we study work-related materials, exercise, and join family gatherings.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far ?

As an airline captain, I was honored to command the first passenger flight flown by two female pilots in Iran. It was an unforgettable, special and unique day, as it was the first time this occurred in the history of Iran’s aviation.

What message would you like to send to all women ? 

Believe in your abilities and power because you can achieve anything you really want.

Fourth interview to come tomorrow, March 11…

INTERVIEW N°2 – Wednesday March 9, 2022

Julie DUMORTIER – A320 First Officer at Air Calin 

Could you tell us a little about your background? 

I arrived in Caledonia at the age of 8. I did most of my education in Nouméa until my Bachelor’s Degree. Then, I moved to France to continue my studies.

I graduated with a DEA in Marine Biology, and started my professional career in a design office in Montpellier, but I quickly got tired of spending my days poring over files. Passionate about skydiving and a member of the French women’s skydiving team, I decided at the age of 27 to follow my deepest desires and become an airline pilot. I invested a lot in my training which I did simultaneously with my first job (ATPL via distance learning and CPL-IR-ME carried out at the Mediterranée Air Training Center, in Montpellier).

I completed my training with an ATR type rating to be able to join the domestic airline Air Calédonie in 2009 as a Co-Pilot on ATR 42 and 72-500, then 72-600. I stayed 9 years at Air Calédonie, where I made up to 6 flights a day between Magenta airport, the Loyalty Islands, the Isle of Pines and Koné in northern Caledonia.

Why did you choose this profession ? 

As I had always dreamed of joining the local international airline, I financed my A320 Type Rating, and I was lucky enough to be recruited by Aircalin at the end of 2018. Today, I fly the brand new A320 neo “Tibarama” from the Aircalin fleet. Before the Covid-19 health crisis, our medium-haul network included New Zealand, Australia, Port Vila, Fiji, Wallis and Tahiti.

Can you describe a typical day at Air Calin ?

My typical day begins with studying the flight file with my captain in the operations room, 1hr30 before takeoff. We check the technical condition of the plane, the flight plan, the weather, the load, we calculate the performance and the fuel to carry. The briefing with the commercial crew follows.

50 minutes before take off, we board the plane, carry out the preparation of the cockpit and the pre-flight inspection of the aircraft. Once the passengers have boarded and the loading is complete, we take off from Tontouta airport for flights ranging from 50 minutes for the shortest to 5 hours for the longest. Generally on the medium-haul network, we have no overnight stays as soon as we land at our destination we prepare the return flight for a take-off again 1hr30 later. During a round trip to Sydney, for example, we arrive at Tontouta operations control at 7 a.m. and return around 5 p.m.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far ?

The most memorable moment in my career was being part of the first and only all-female flight in Caledonia,which I did at Air Calédonie in 2010 in an ATR 42-500.

What message would you like to send to all women ?

Female pilots are still few in number even if the proportion of them compared to men is increasing, it is still a predominantly male environment. I am also the only female A320 pilot at Aircalin.

The job of an airline pilot is a passion, a technical and demanding job,but there is no disparity between men and women.

So for all the little girls and women who dream of it, give yourself Wings!

Third interview to come tomorrow, March 10…

INTERVIEW N°1 – Tuesday March 8, 2022

Simone VERGEER – Commercial Manager at Simaero Johannesburg Training Center

Why did you choose this profession ? 

I initially started as a General Assistant in the ATO Department as an interim job shortly after school. I soon found a growing interest in simulator training and ever since, love what I do and how I contribute to having a positive impact on Simulator Training in the African Aviation Industry.

Can you describe a typical day at SIMAERO Johannesburg ?

Managing clients’ accounts and working on projects takes a large, productive portion of my time. The emails and phone calls never end, however a typical day in the office is bustling and cheerful – meeting new pilots and clients that are training at the facility and ensuring daily operations are running efficiently. No matter what circumstances we tackle, it is always an enjoyable day surrounded by our SIMAERO team.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far ? 

The most memorable moment of my career is when my job became a career. Moving on to become the Commercial Manager of my department has come with many learning curves and a lot of personal growth. Having a passion for what I do and being inspired to higher levels of innovation has defined me both in and out of the workplace.

What message would you like to send to all women ? 

My message to women is simply to do what makes you happy in life. May it be a small routine you do every day or a life changing decision – nurture the best possibilities into being, expect to get valuable results, and back up those expectations with commitment, sustained effort and faith in the worthiness of what you are doing.