Women in Aviation - Jo Hjalmas

by Jo Hjalmas on Mar 04 2019
My name is Jo Hjalmas and I am the Head of UK Academy, based in Bournemouth. I started with CTC Aviation four years ago as a Sales Support Administrator. Shortly after the L3 acquisition, I was promoted to Customer Business Manager in the Airline Training department and my job was to oversee and forecast customer activity for the UK flight simulator training.

In January 2019, I was given the exciting opportunity to run one of the four global flight academies. I am now responsible for the day-to-day flight training program in Bournemouth which has a fleet of 27 aircraft, flown by 25 permanent flight instructors and numerous consultants. Last year, the UK Academy delivered over 14,000 hours of flight training!

My journey into the industry started at a young age. I was raised in an aviation family; my father is a training Captain for British Airways and my mother was cabin crew. From an early age, my father and I regularly flew light aircraft and occasionally I had the opportunity to sit in the jumpseat on one of his commercial flights. Once I got to college, I was accepted on an aviation enrichment program to start training towards my Private Pilot’s License (PPL) as well as a potential officer’s course, which was fully funded by the Women’s Pilots Association and the Princes Trust. Along with two other female students, I spent most weekends at Sleap Aerodrome in Ground School classes, assisting in refuelling visiting aircraft and getting our first few hours of light aircraft flying. From this point onwards, I knew that I wanted a career in aviation. At 18, I applied for an Integrated ATPL program and achieved my license at the tender age of 21!

Over my career, I have encountered a vast range of reactions to being a female pilot. Although some negativity can be frustrating, the majority of customers and colleagues have been extremely complimentary and encouraging about more women entering into what has previously been a male-dominated industry. In one of my flying jobs, I often flew with a female Captain, which regularly prompted positive comments from our passengers and dispelled some gender stereotyping.

In my current role, it is incredibly fulfilling to have the opportunity to work closely with the latest generation of pilots. There is a real buzz when students achieve important milestones such as their first solo or Commercial Pilots License. For many cadets, flying is not just a standard training course to get a job; it is a real passion. Each day, I feel privileged to have a part in someone’s flight training experience.

To date, the most important thing that I have learnt is that the field of aviation is very diverse. Starting from pilot training, you can look to branch out into different areas such as instruction, examining or management positions. It is important to keep challenging yourself until you find the job that makes you tick. My advice to any other women looking to join the field is to go for it! Aviation is exciting and every day is completely different. You will have to work hard to achieve your goals but the resulting career is so very worth it!