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"Women pilots aim high for choice airline jobs"



Monday, February 18, 2002

Women pilots aim high for choice airline jobs
By ROBERT NANDELL
The Des Moines (IA) Register


While competition for airline pilot jobs has increased since the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks, that obstacle has not deterred two Des Moines area
women from pursuing their goal of someday flying jetliners.

Rachel Bigger, 23, of Altoona is working as a flight instructor for
Todd's Flying Service in Ankeny while she waits for the airline job
market to improve. Bigger, a graduate of the University of Dubuque
aviation program, teaches students how to fly single-engine aircraft
such as Cessna 150s and 172s.

"Just making a living at it" is Vicki Renner's short-term aviation goal.
Renner, 29, of Des Moines is a pilot for Monarch Manufacturing Co.

Renner, a graduate of Minnesota State University at Mankato aviation
program, flew twin-engine weather research planes in Oklahoma. She put
in about 400 hours as a flight instructor before switching to company
and charter flying.

With 1,200 flying hours in her logbook, Renner is acquiring a pilot
rating that would her enable her to haul passengers for area flying
services.

Bigger, who had a college internship with Northwest Airlines in
Minneapolis, said the highlight of her experience there was riding in
the cockpit jump seat of a Boeing 747 during a round-trip flight to
Hawaii.

"Once you're in there you don't want to get out of there," Bigger said.
"It really makes your mind up as to what you want to do."

The competition for airline pilot positions increased after airline
travel dropped, resulting in layoffs throughout the industry. Pilots
including Bigger and Renner likely will have to work longer as flight
instructors and charter pilots while waiting for airline jobs.

Although women have been joining the ranks of major airlines, a larger
percentage have become pilots of corporate aircraft, said Tami Todd of
Todd's Flying Service.

"There have been more women interested in becoming pilots during the
last 10 years," Todd said.

Bigger said: "The number of hours required to get on with airlines is
going up because of a saturated market. If you can work at a flying
service and build those hours, you can still do it."

Most airlines require a minimum of 1,200 to 1,300 accumulated hours of
flight time for pilot trainee candidates.

Bigger said the students taking flight instruction these days are
committed to learning. "It's not a cheap hobby. You have to really want
to do it. It's not like learning to drive a car."

Renner, who has flown a variety of twin-engine aircraft, is eager to do
any job that earns her more hours in the air.

"Pilots don't like sitting," Renner said. "We want to be flying."

Ankeny charter pilot John Miller, who also does some instructing, said
flying with women pilots is not a gender issue.

"If they're good at it, it makes no difference to me," he said.

Miller said that new airline pilot trainees can be paid as little as
$20,000. A veteran pilot flying jumbo jets for major airlines makes more
than $100,000 a year.


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