Meet Kate McWilliams and Luke Elsworth
I remember many years ago hearing a strange story about a commercial flight – the passengers refused to fly because the pilot was a woman. In preparing to write this article, I went to Google to determine just when that was. I couldn’t find that information.
But what I did find was something even more weird. In 2014, a passenger left a sexist message for the female pilot who had just flown him and his fellow travellers. She posted his note on her Facebook page and referred to his comment that the cockpit of an airliner is no place for a woman. She gently reminded him that ‘flight deck’ was actually the correct description and that ‘cockpit’ was no longer used because ‘no cocks are required’. 😉
That was bad enough but two years later in 2016 there was yet another instance of passengers removing themselves from an aircraft once they realised that their pilot was a woman. Unbelievable.
So I’d love to introduce these people to Kate and Luke.
Kate, 26, is believed to be the youngest female commercial airline captain, an achievement she attained in 2016. The same year, Luke became one of the world’s youngest commercial pilots at the age of nineteen. (Pedantic note: A captain is the senior pilot on the flight deck and the first officer, which is Luke’s designation, is colloquially referred to as the co-pilot).
Kate and Luke are now flying people all over the world. Both started their flying training at the age of thirteen and both now work for UK airline EasyJet.
There are those who point out that Kate has only legally been able to drive a car (in the UK) for nine years and that when Luke became qualified to fly passengers he had only been legal to drive for two years. Well, let me remind those people about Max Verstappen.
Max, eighteen years old when Kate and Luke became captain and first officer, spends his working day driving a car at about 375 mph. He has been doing this for a couple of years now. He is the youngest driver, to date, to compete in Formula One and during the first few months of his Formula One career was not even old enough to drive a regular road car in his home country of Belgium.
People much younger than Kate and even younger than Luke were flying in the Second World War, defending their country. In the First World War, early flyers were often even younger as it was a lot easier in those days for potential pilots to simply lie about their age. During that war it was estimated that the average life expectancy of a fighter pilot was two weeks.
As for women, the first commercial pilot was Helen Richey who was only twenty five when she began as a commercial pilot in 1934. And women have been flying since the pioneer days of aviation – when Queen Victoria was on the throne. It was the pilots’ union that eventually forced Helen to give up her career.
Thank goodness that in this day and age, young pilots of either sex can earn the right to use their skills.