Marking Brunei's National Day, the first all-female deck crew for Royal Brunei Airlines operated a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from the southeast Asian country to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Flight BI081 touched down on 23 February in the oil-rich Gulf kingdom, where women still face restrictions on driving.
"Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male dominant occupation. As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement," said Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy. "It's really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it." Surainy was accompanied by Senior First Officer Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Senior First Officer Sariana Nordin.
Captain Surainy started her aviation career as a cadet pilot in 2003 and finished her first pilot training at the Cabair Flying School in Cranfield, UK. She hit a milestone by becoming Southeast Asia's first female captain of a flag carrier airline in 2012 when she was presented with her captain's epaulettes.
According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA), female pilots worldwide account for just over three percent of the overall number of pilots. "I suppose if the job were just concerned with flying, there would be a lot more women. But the job isn't just flying, it's wrapped up in a whole lot of other unappealing circumstances, unappealing especially to women who may not have the drive, ambition, financial means or the family/network support to pursue flying as a career," said Angela Masson, a retired American Airlines captain.
"Flying has to be something that you really, really want, because even gender issues aside, it's a very challenging and demanding career," she added.
The number of female pilots stands at 4,000 out of about 130,00, according to a report in The Telegraph. Meanwhile, the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) estimates that women make up 570 of the British aviation industry's 9,846 pilots and co-pilots.