01 April, 2020

A pilot breaking the stereotypes at KLM

As a stewardess, it’s always a thrill to be introduced to a female pilot ahead of a flight. This is not something that happens often, because there are still very few women in the cockpit, unfortunately. At KLM, only 5.8% of pilots are women. Jacqueline Vollebregt (53) is one of them. She is a captain aboard the Boeing 777/787 and has been with KLM for 27 years, writes Mijke Broerse on the KLM blog.
Photo KLM

Mijke spoke to Jacqueline about her life and career to get an insight into life as pilot breaking stereotypes

As a child, did you dream of becoming a pilot?
“Not at all. My mom’s academic career ended after she completed the school for home economics, much to her frustration. That’s why she always told me I could become whatever I wanted to be. But I had no idea what that might be. I left school at 16 to become a courier. During a holiday trip with a friend, I was invited to take a look in the cockpit. It was wonderful! A couple of years later, I still felt the itch and decided to take flying lessons at the Martinair Flight Academy. From that moment on, I knew this was it! But I needed to get the right qualifications first, so I kept working as a courier and completed the required, university-level school in the evening.

To cover the costs of attending the National Flight Academy, I moved in with my parents again and worked like crazy. On weekdays I did homecare services and in the weekends I worked at a department store (V&D). I also delivered newspapers. The problem was I could only get a loan from the bank if I personally invested 36,000 guilders. Once I’d saved 30,000 guilders, I borrowed the remaining 6,000 from my parents. And so I enrolled at the National Flight Academy at the age of 24. Two years later, I was recruited by KLM.”

What was it like for you at the flight academy?
“I felt like I had a lot more to prove, but I also soon felt at home. Fortunately, there was another woman in my class. There were plenty of chauvinistic remarks in the first years. One instructor remarked that he thought women in the cockpit were a bad idea, because they were in a foul mood once a month. That was before we’d spent any time in the cockpit together…”

Do you have any tips for girls who dream of becoming pilots?
“Go for it! Come and join us! Don’t let practical obstacles get in your way. If you haven’t done maths and science, you can always get those qualifications later. I sometimes hear stewardesses say that they would have liked to become pilots, but simply didn’t consider it at the time. In that sense, it’s important to have a role model. Two daughters of friends of mine have also become pilots. I’m not saying it’s because of me, but I may have played a little part in getting them thinking.”

The full interview can be found on the latest addition to the KLM blog.

Photo KLM

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