The first female Royal Australian Air Force pilots were Fight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Robyn Williams and Officer Cadet (OFFCDT) Deborah Hicks. Both graduated from the same flying course (No 144 PLTCSE) on 30 June 1988.
OFFCDT Hicks flew Mystere VIP aircraft at No 34 SQN and discharged in 1994.
FLTLT Williams went on to qualify as a flying instructor in 1992 before undergoing test pilot training in the UK. After serving with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU), she was promoted to Squadron Leader and posted to the US where for five years she led the resident RAAF project team taking delivery of new C-130J Hercules. Promoted to Wing Commander in March 2000, she returned to Australia later that year to manage the C-130J program office.
The first female engineer is less clear. On 1 February 1978, the RAAF appointed its first female engineering student Pilot Officer Margaret Maxwell. It appears that she had already completed two years of her tertiary education as an engineer prior to enlistment as in 1980 she was posted to an Aeronautical Engineering position.
However on 21 August 1979, the RAAF appointed Fying Officer Rosalea Hotchkies as our first qualified engineer - she was a direct entry Radar Engineer.
There are no restrictions of the employment of females in the Air Force, including all pilot positions. Female pilots in the Air Force are currently flying the following aircraft types:
As at January 2017 there were over 750 pilots in the permanent Air Force, 33 of whom were women, which equates to around 4.3.%.
Although women are eligible to fly all aircraft in the Air Force, there are currently no female fighter pilots however we do have females currently undergoing fast-jet training. Women are successfully flying fighter jets in the United States, France, Turkey, Israel and other nations, and Air Force actively encourages women to apply to fly fighter jets in Australia.
Air Force has implemented several programs to assist women who choose a pilot career. Entry to the Graduate Pilot Scheme (GPS) is open to women who are currently undertaking a Bachelor of Aviation (BAv) at selected universities. Once qualified, ADF women pilots are able to access the Flying Females Mentoring Network.
Men and women are required to undergo the same basic fitness tests to become a pilot; however the standards are different for age and gender. For some roles, the requirement can not be adjusted for safety reasons.
Women are eligible to fly as aircrew on all aircraft or control aircraft in the Air Force. As at February 2017 there are 233 female aircrew and aircraft controllers in Air Force, with another 88 females undergoing training to be aircrew or controllers. This includes Officer Aviation jobs such as Pilots, Air Combat Officers (Mission Aircrew and Ground Controllers) and Air Traffic Controllers; and Airmen Aircrew such as Airborne Electronic Analysts, Crew Attendants and Loadmasters.
Air Force’s commitment to improving gender diversity is demonstrated through a comprehensive Gender Diversity Strategy. Initiatives include the promotion of mentoring for female members, strategies for improved and expanded flexible working arrangements and support for new parents.
Air Force pays for our female pilots to be members of the Australian Women's Pilot Association. This sponsorship provides an invaluable mentoring and professional development opportunity for female Air Force pilots to engage with other female pilots outside the military network.
Each year the Chief of Air Force awards two scholarships to young women under the age of 24. This scholarship is designed to assist young women in the costs of pursuing a career in aviation.
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