Celebrating Yvonne Kershaw - the first female pilot to captain a jumbo jet

The first British women to captain a jumbo jet, Yvonne Kershaw, has hung up her wings after 27 years piloting the iconic Boeing 747 aircraft for Virgin Atlantic.

After nearly three decades of flying across the Atlantic for the airline, Yvonne’s final flight took place last week as she flew holidaymakers from Cancun to London.

Having learnt to fly at the age of 19 Yvonne well and truly caught the flying bug, spending time flying small aircrafts around Europe and North Africa before gaining her commercial licence and moving onto executive jets. She then moved to Virgin Atlantic, joining in 1990 when the airline’s fleet comprised only four Boeing 747s.

"It has been a privilege to fly the flag for female captains over the past 24 years. After overcoming traditional gender stereotypes I’ve been humbled to act as a role model for young aspiring female pilots," commented Yvonne.

"After being in the driving seat of the world’s most iconic plane for years it will be an odd feeling to board as a holiday maker. It’ll be odd to be a backseat pilot, I’ll have to stop myself giving the captain a few tips."

Yvonne became the first British woman to gain her captaincy for the 747 in 1993, and has since clocked up over 2,000 flights totalling 18,000 flying hours in the flight deck of the 455 seater, 377 tonne aircraft which has long been a favourite for pilots

"I’ll be sad not to see Yvonne on the flight deck anymore but she leaves behind a legacy for all our future pilots. Having broken in to a traditionally male dominated industry in the 1990s Yvonne is proof that you can smash glass ceilings and challenge archaic stereotypes," said Captain Dave Kistruck, Vice President of Airline Operations.

"With Yvonne and her pioneering colleagues coming to retirement age, we’re investing in our future pilots through the pilot cadet scheme. So far 30% of our cadets have been women and we encourage people from all backgrounds to apply."


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