Meredith Bell is living the dream: one moment she’s flying across the world to Chengdu, China, piloting the most advanced aeroplane known to man, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, and the next she’s back in the comfort of her home with her family. And thanks to the Dreamliner’s revolutionary air conditioning system, which uses outside air and then humidifies it, she barely even gets jet lag: “I can do an 11 hour flight to China and feel like I’ve done a two hour flight in a conventional aircraft,” she says with evident joy. “I really do have the most wonderful job in the world.”
Bell is one of only a handful of female airline pilots in the UK. The small number of female pilots is an industry wide issue (globally, less than 4 per cent of pilots are women). At British Airways, where Bell works, 5 per cent of pilots are women (the airline has 200 female pilots), which is more than at any other UK carrier. BA’s female pilot programme is trying to address this and increase the number of female pilots. Bell, however, has never seen her gender as an obstacle in rising to the top, in what is still largely regarded as a predominantly male-dominated profession.
“Being a pilot is, I think, still seen as a man’s job, but I don’t think about it,” she tells me. “It’s just that there are fewer women than there are men. There are no more challenges for this role if you are a woman than there are if you’re a man.”
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