A flight attendant checks seats on an Ethiopian Airlines flight.
Photo credit should read JENNY VAUGHAN/AFP/GettyImages
Jess McHugh
December 22, 2017

Ethiopian Airlines ran a flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Lagos, Nigeria, operated entirely by women last week.

While it was not the first all-woman flight crew to operate a flight within Africa — Malawi Air accomplished that feat in March — the occasion was historic for Ethiopian Airlines, as the carrier urged more women to join its ranks, local news outlets reported.

The African carrier accomplished a similar feat when women operated every aspect of an international flight from Addis Ababa to Bangkok in 2015. The pilot and co-pilot, crew, and even the air traffic controllers were all women.

“This is an ample opportunity to inspire young African female students to believe in their dreams and embark to fill the skill gap for aviation professionals,” an Ethiopian Airlines spokesperson said in 2015, after the first all woman flight. “Women are the continent’s greatest untapped resources.”

Captain Amsale Gualu, the pilot who captained both flights for Ethiopian Airlines, said she had dreamed of becoming a pilot since a very young age.

“When I was in high school also, I used to be impressed by the (pilots) uniform. And I guess that is where my passion for flying developed. After graduating from Addis Ababa University, I joined Ethiopian Airlines as a first officer,” she told reporters, according to Africa News.

Women are notoriously underrepresented in the field of aviation around the world. Only 3 percent, or 4,000, of the world's 130,000 pilots are women, and only 450 are captains, according to the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Kathi Durst, an American Airlines pilot who was one of the first female captains to graduate from the U.S. Air Force, told Travel + Leisure last year that visibility can make a huge difference to young girls. Durst said she makes sure to say hello to passengers as they disembark, paying attention to young girls who might want to learn more about aviation.

“In my generation for sure, parents didn’t see their daughters becoming pilots,” she said. “I’m particularly looking for young girls, and children really, so they can see...women in those roles. And I make a point of doing that.”

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