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19 Year Old Future Pilot Celebrates International Pilot Day.

I have gotten into some weird misconceptions about my gender from classmates and others. They would joke around about my height saying I can’t reach the rudder pedal or some would even say why that career choose something else more easy or female worthy.

Jerenae Thompson

The engine is the heart of an airplane, but the pilot is its soul.” – unknown

On 26th April 2020 Pilots and Aviation specialist around the globe celebrated International Pilot Day. Originally celebrated by the Turkish Airline Pilots’ Association to commemorate the first flight made in Turkey by Fesa Evrensev on the 26th April. This date was later offered to the International Federation of Airline Pilots Association to be celebrated as World Pilots’ Day in 2013 which it later accepted.

In honor of this day (International Pilots Day) and to showcase females in STEM careers we decided to interview and highlight a 19 year old aspiring pilot Jerenae Thompson. This young Bahamian 2018 graduate of Aquinas College is currently in flight school to obtain her final license. During our interview she shares her struggles on her journey stating that “the road here was not easy I had many difficult times before starting my studies.”

Diving deeper into the conversation she revealed moments of weakness allowing persons to determine outcome but that changed ever since my graduating year. We will share more about her personal story at the end but we wanted to capture so key details about her piloting journey. This is what we found out about her experience in the industry.

1. What is your background? What got you interested in becoming a pilot?

Aviation was not my first choice it grew on me and became a passion for me ever since 2016. Every year my family and I would always take trips to the states during the summer time for a vacation and each time my father would always ask the stewardesses can we hail the pilots or an we take a look inside of the cockpit . Every time that cockpit door opened I was always fascinated of how beautiful the inside was, it was so many colors and controls . Also leading up to our summer time vacations my father also took me to the airport and we park there for hours watching aircrafts depart and arrive , to me if was the most satisfying and relaxing thing ever .I don’t know if it’s because I just love the sound of the engines whirl as it takes of or when it lands but I just loved it and automatically I begin to smile .My interest of becoming a pilot started since 2016 ,I made up mind and told my parents I know what it is I want to study and I’m not going to change my mind , and ever since then they supported me in my dreams of becoming an Airline Pilot.*

2. Did you have any other career aspirations? If yes, what was it?

Yes , I did have many other career aspirations before really knowing what it was I actually wanted to do. During my younger years I always wanted to be in the medical field .I wanted to become a Neurologist , Pediatrician Oncologists or a Midwife ,But after doing research and really going in depth in each field I just didn’t have the passion/Drive to go on and actually study for those career choices.

3. Did you go or are you currently enrolled in pilot program? If yes what is the name of the program/school?

Yes ,I am currently enrolled in a pilot program, I am currently studying a Professional Airline Pilot course at Epic Flight Academy located in New Smyrna Beach , Florida.

4. What was the gender demographics at your piloting school?

The gender demographics at my school is mainly dominated by males we have a higher percentage of males than females ,I can actually count the amount of females that attend my school on hand.

5. Aviation is a male-dominated industry, especially in the Bahamas. Are there any

female pilots that inspired you? Who are they?

Photo: Tribune Bahamas

Captain Frances Smith, Captain Gwendolyn Ritchie and Captain Gail Saunders.

Yes, in The Bahamas in the aviation sector it’s mostly male dominated . We do have female pilots here but it’s not any and I would I like to applaud each of them for their great work. However, the two female pilots that inspired me , One currently works at Bahamas air now as an first officer by the name of Sherrell and also Captain Ritchie who recently retired from Bahamas air. Both of these ladies inspired and gave motivational words about the industry which made me pushed more and more .I also would like to thank them both for their kindness of act.

6. What are some of the misconceptions about women in aviation? Have you ever got into a weird situation because of your gender?

Some of the weird misconception about women in aviation would either have to be a females height or mainly the fact that it’s a MALE DOMINATED INDUSTRY. Yes I have gotten into some weird misconceptions about my gender from classmates and others. They would joke around about my height saying I can’t reach the rudder pedal or some would even say why that career choose something else more easy or female worthy .

7. If gender isn’t a particular problem, what is the greatest challenge for you?

My greatest challenge for me in flight school was my height , however because I was so determined to become pilot and I had my mind to it I fixed that challenge by simply trying things that would help me handle the aircraft.

8. What do you enjoy most about aviation ?

The best thing about aviation in my point of view besides flying the aircraft would have to be the scenery . I enjoy being able to look outside and watch the sunset or the sunrise even the water ,The view from up there is just AMAZING.

9. What’s the one thing you always pack for every flight? One thing I always pack would be snacks or water but mainly a snack .

10. How has COVID-19 affected the aviation industry in ways people do not know?

I would say it wasn’t greatly affected as how it is in The Bahamas ,but here in the United States you have some airlines that has stopped operations but also some are currently operating their usual flights as well as students that are currently in flight schools because were considered an “Essential Service”.

11. What advice would you give to young girls who are interested in becoming a pilot?

I would tell them go for it ,it’s a beautiful career a very sweet one as well. Don’t mind what others may say use their words as a motivation and push to the end goal because at the end of the day you can do whatever it is you what to do once you put your mind to it .Study hard and you would be very successful .

12. What are the subject areas or disciplines that someone wanting to become a pilot should study?

The Subject area is very broad, but I would say English, Geography, Physics and Mathematics but also you can watch aviation videos or books to help as well . When it comes down discipline I would say to have confidence, Affirmations, make safe choices and always practice good habits.

Jernea also shared more about her experience in this interview. Here is her personal story and words of encouragement. When it was coming to down to graduation I received a lot of negativity from many persons ,saying that you can’t attend this school because you need a certain G.P.A, or your to short …even down to the fact that I was a female. Along with the negativity in my class group it was 6 of us that wanted to do aviation , 5 males and me being the only female . Having the negative thoughts of what people placed upon me along with being the only female out of the group , also the only one with 0 experience about aviation had me in a depressed state .

But I continued with my journey and still followed my dreams and placed all of that behind me , can I tell you that since then from graduating out of the group of males being the only female starting with 0 experience I have obtained 2/3 of my licenses and now finishing up my last one . I’m saying all of this to say it does not matter your height , your skin color , but mainly your GENDER to determine your outcome in life .Once you are determined always remember YOU CAN DO ANYTHING in this world once you place your mind to it . Yes !! my road was hard , yes !!I went through many challenges, many breakdowns but guess what I didn’t allow none of that to affect my dream of becoming an airline pilot and I can only thank God , my parents and family members ,because they helped me during this fight.

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