Sophie Blanchard, Etihad Airways´ first female captain sits at the controls before her flight to London yesterday.
ABU DHABI // Etihad Airways celebrated yesterday as the company’s first female captain took to the skies.
Sophie Blanchard, 33, from Lyon, France, took off in her Airbus A330-300 with 225 passengers and crew from Abu Dhabi International Airport at 1.30pm at the controls of Flight EY17, bound for London’s Heathrow. She landed at 6.04pm local time.
She joined Etihad in 2007 as a First Officer, after initially flying for Etihad Crystal Cargo while working for Air Atlanta.
“It is a great privilege to become Etihad’s first female captain and be the first woman to take full command of a commercial flight,” she said before the seven-and-a-half-hour trip. “The company has been very supportive in my aim to become a captain and I look forward to my first flight to London.”
“I started on DC8 cargo planes registered in Liberia, based in Belgium. That African freighter operation lasted for two years, and I travelled all around Africa and the rest of the world, for humanitarian and other cargo shipments.”Etihad currently has 10 female pilots within its ranks and four female cadet pilots.
“We congratulate Sophie on becoming Etihad’s first female captain,” said Capt Richard Hill, Etihad Airways’ chief operations officer. “It’s a great achievement and well deserved as she has shown tremendous dedication to achieve the rank of captain.
“She has the right number of flying hours, right qualifications and training. So much of the job relies on having good people skills; being able to make clear and accurate decisions. Communication skills are paramount.
He said Ms Blanchard’s example would further encourage women to become pilots.
Ms Blanchard’s success echoes that of another Sophie Blanchard, who rose to fame as the first female professional balloonist. Her namesake became an aviation pioneer, together with her husband, Jean-Pierre, at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century, and even entertained Napoleon Bonaparte, who named her “Aeronaut of the Official Festivals”.