LONDON — When it comes to glass ceilings in the aviation industry, 26-year-old Kate McWilliams hasn’t just smashed them — she’s flown above them.
Her employer, the British carrier Easyjet, believes McWilliams has become the world’s youngest commercial airline captain after she passed the required course to ascend to her new rank.
Of the 130,000 airline pilots worldwide, just 450 are female captains, according to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, and McWilliams has urged more women to join her ranks.
“I joined the air cadets when I was 13 where I got plenty of flying experience,” said McWilliams, who first became interested in planes after attending an air show at age four.
“I didn’t imagine a career in commercial aviation as I didn’t know any commercial pilots who I could ask for advice,” added McWilliams, who is based at London’s Gatwick Airport. “I never even thought it could be an option available to me.”
At 19, McWilliams began a CTC Aviation training course and two years later started working as a first officer with British airline carrier Easyjet. The first officer is often referred to as the co-pilot of an aircraft, and is in effect the second-in-command to the captain.
Julie Westhorp of the British Women Pilots’ Association said she hoped McWiliams’ achievement “inspires more women to consider pursuing a career in aviation.
“It clearly demonstrates to other young women that it is possible to succeed as a pilot in commercial aviation,” she added.