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CQUni helping more women launch into aviation careers

Published:10 December 2019

CQUni aviation graduate, Sarah Steele is urging women not to be intimidated by the male-dominated industry. Since graduating, the CQUni Alumnus has progressed from a Charter Pilot to Flight Instructor and hopes to one day be a First Officer, flying a Boeing 777.

With recent reports indicating that between now and 2038, the aviation industry will need to supply more than two million new civil aviation pilots, maintenance technicians, and cabin crew, CQUni is working hard to get more women in the cockpit.

“Over the last 35 years of university education and pilot training, female CQUni aviation students have represented between 10 and 35 per cent of the overall student aviation cohort, depending on intake numbers,” CQUni's Foundation Professor of Aviation, Development Lead (Aviation) and Head of Aviation courses, Steven Thatcher said.

“Currently, 32 of our 159 students are female, which equates to approximately 20 per cent of the overall student aviation cohort. That’s quite impressive, given that only 3 per cent of Australia’s commercial pilots are female."

Throughout 2019, CQUni officially opened the Cairns Aviation Centre, which features state-of-the-art aviation simulation technologies, addressing the needs of the aviation industry through the delivery of world-class higher education training.

In addition, the number of CQUni flight training providers increased to 13, after the University joined forces with Sunshine Coast pilot academy Flight Options in September, and CQUni’s aviation graduates were provided a new opportunity to pathway from a pilot career with a regional airline to a major national airline within two years of graduating, thanks to a partnership with Hinterland Aviation and Virgin Australia.

It is hoped that these advancements, paired with CQUni’s inclusive philosophy and highly experienced teaching staff, will result in a steady increase of female aviation students and graduates over the coming years, bolstering the Australian aviation industry.

“CQUni's primary aviation course is the Bachelor of Aviation (Flight Operations), which provides the expertise to satisfy requirements for an Air Transport Pilot Licence and Command Instrument Rating, and is taught by staff with real-world aviation experience," Professor Thatcher said.

“Upon the successful completion of a student's first term of study, they are then enrolled into the Graduate Diploma of Aviation (Flight Operations), which provides them with practical training components, after their first solo flight.”

As CQUni’s aviation landscape continues to change and improve, its female graduates are enjoying the benefits of a rewarding career, which sees them take to the sky behind the controls of some of Australia’s most renowned aircraft.

CQUni Bachelor of Aviation (Flight Operations) and Graduate Diploma of Aviation (Flight Operations) alumnus, Sarah Steele landed a job straight after graduation as a charter pilot, flying the Piper Chieftain single-crew IFR.

“The main destination was Palm Island, an Indigenous community approximately 36nm North of Townsville, and our clients consisted of prisoner transfers with the police, deceased personnel (coffins), and contractors who need to get to the island for work,” Ms Steele said.

“The weather between Townsville and Palm Island can be very deceiving, which added to the complexity of leaving and re-entering controlled airspace within a short distance.

“Flying this sector was a high workload in a high-performance twin-engine aircraft, however, I wouldn't change it. The experience I gained from this is something I will take with me forever. It was fun and I loved every minute.”

Now, Ms Steele is progressing her aviation career with an exciting new opportunity.

“I have been offered an opportunity to relocate to Moorabbin to commence instructing rating, before working as a Flight Instructor for the new DA40 and DA42 aircraft," she said.

"I will fly charter for our prestigious clients between Melbourne locations such as Geelong and Flinders Island, just to name a few."

Ms Steele encouraged other women to start their own rewarding careers in the aviation industry.

“My favourite aspects of the job include the changing environment, the challenge to adapt to these changes and the endless opportunities aviation has to offer if you’re willing to accept. Do not allow this male-dominated industry to intimidate you. Every day is a challenge, embrace it!” she said.

“I hope that in five years' time, my training, experience, passion, and commitment will see me become a First Officer flying a Boeing 777 internationally, before progressing to a Check and Training Officer for an airline.”

Applications to study at CQUni in Term 1, 2020 are open now. Visit our Aviation courses page to explore your options.